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STATEMENT BY SECRETARY SCHAFER ON SPEAKER PELOSI'S ACTIONS TO PUSH A CHANGE TO TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY FOR THE COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2008 – Today's action by Speaker Pelosi is bad for America's economy and most of all bad for American farmers. Trade is vital to the strength of our agricultural economy, and free trade agreements like the one with Colombia are critical to continued growth in agriculture.
Colombia is the largest market for our agricultural exports in South America. It bought a record $1.2 billion of our agriculture products in 2007. Meanwhile, the trade situation between our countries has become one-sided, as Colombian food and agricultural products come into the U.S. with no duties whatsoever.
That's due to the Andean Trade Preference Act, which has been repeatedly reauthorized by Congress. In fact, just last month Congress passed this act by Unanimous Consent. Why is Congress willing to continue to allow Colombian products to enter the United States without tariffs but not willing to vote to have American exports to Colombia to go tariff free? I think that is a question Speaker Pelosi should answer.
American goods are subject to numerous tariffs and duties in Colombia. The Colombian free trade agreement levels the playing field for our farmers and ranchers, by removing duties on more than 70 percent of our agriculture products immediately. U.S. farm exports to Colombia that will receive immediate duty-free treatment include high quality cuts of beef, cotton, numerous fruits and vegetables, wheat, and soybeans. Overall, our farmers and ranchers stand to gain a great deal by implementing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
The American Farm Bureau estimates that once this agreement is fully implemented, American agriculture will see $690 million in gains each year, generating another $1.8 billion in economic activity and supporting nearly nine thousand jobs here in the United States.
Colombia has a growing economy and a growing appetite for the kind of commodities American farmers excel at producing. The agricultural community recognizes the enormous potential of this agreement, which is why more than 40 agricultural and food associations have voiced their support for the Colombian FTA.
Our farmers and ranchers depend upon exports for their financial well-being, and failing to act on this agreement could affect markets, disappoint our trading partners, and hinder our efforts to get American crops to consumers around the world.
American Farmers deserve a level playing field when it comes to trade with Colombia. Implementation of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement is the right thing to do for America's economy and its right for America's Farmers. And Congress needs to stand on the side of America's farmers.