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Farmers' groups urge Congress to expedite Korea FTA's ratification

All Headlines 06:47 July 09, 2010

By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, July 8 (Yonhap) -- A group of 42 agricultural and food organizations sent a letter to congressional leaders Thursday to call on them to cooperate with President Obama for the rapid ratification of the pending free trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

In the letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other congressional leaders, the group welcomed Obama's announcement late last month of "his intention to set a November deadline for removing outstanding obstacles to the implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement."

Among the groups are the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, U.S. Apple Association, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council and Produce Marketing Association.

"This is very welcome news for America's farmers, ranchers, food industry workers and exporters," the letter said. "Our organizations are grateful to the president for his new initiative, and we hope that you will work closely with him to ensure timely action on the implementing legislation."

The Korea FTA, signed under the Bush administration in 2007, has been pending as the Obama administration has yet to move for ratification, with the president citing an imbalance in auto trade and restricted shipment of beef.

Obama, however, said last month that he will present the Korea FTA to Congress for ratification early next year if progress is made on auto and beef, noting he instructed U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to resume talks with South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon "to make sure that everything is lined up properly by the time that I visit Korea in November." Obama is due in Seoul in mid-November when South Korea hosts the next G-20 economic summit.

"And then, in the few months that follow that, I intend to present it to Congress," Obama said at the time, adding the Korea FTA's implementation will "create enormous potential economic benefits and create jobs here in the United States, which is my No. 1 priority."

The farmers' group noted South Korea is the fifth biggest market for U.S. farm products.

"The Korean market is now the fifth largest for U.S. agricultural exports, valued at $3.9 billion in 2009," it said. "According to economic analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Korea FTA would expand exports in a wide range of commodities and result in $1.8 billion in additional sales, a 46 percent increase."

The group feared any failure to ratify the Korea FTA will undermine the competitiveness of American products, citing South Korea's push for more FTAs with other major trading partners.

"Failure to implement the agreement would not only prevent us from taking advantage of this large and growing market, it would cede our market share to competitors that already have in place or are negotiating their own FTAs with Korea," the group said. "We urge you, therefore, to work with the administration to remove any remaining impediments to a rapid implementation of the FTAs with Colombia, Korea and Panama."

hdh@yna.co.kr

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