Trade Agreements Needed Urgently, Says NCBA

US - National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Bill Donald has testified during a House Committee on Agriculture hearing regarding the pending free trade agreements (FTAs).
calendar icon 13 May 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

He said cattlemen appreciate the administration’s efforts to finalise pending FTAs with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Mr Donald said now is the time to begin the implementation process in order to secure critical market share.

“Time is of the essence because as a cattle producer, I’m competing with other cattlemen in the European Union, Australia, Canada, Argentina and Brazil and we’re all courting the same consumer base,” said Mr Donald, who is also a cattleman from Melville, Montana. “These foreign governments are independently working to secure trade agreements and market access for their own cattle producers. Our government’s failure to implement these agreements sends the wrong message to major export markets.”

Mr Donald joined leaders from other agricultural commodity organizations as well as US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk to testify during the hearing. He said with 96 per cent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, it’s understandable why cattlemen are “overwhelmingly supportive of these trade agreements.”

With regard to Korea, Mr Donald said the trade agreement would phase out Korea’s current 40 per cent tariff on US beef imports, which is the biggest hindrance to US beef exports to Korea. He cited a US International Trade Commission report that stated full implementation of the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement could increase US beef exports to Korea by as much as $1.8 billion.

Mr Donald said cattlemen and women also support immediate implementation of the pending trade pacts with Colombia and Panama, which phase out import tariffs on US beef and will provide assurances of a stable export market through plant inspection equivalency and by following internationally recognised health standards.

“We can’t talk about trade without discussing non-tariff trade barriers,” Donald said. “International trade must be based on sound science, not political science. Abiding by internationally recognized science-based guidelines, like those set by the World Organisation for Animal Health, promote fair trade for the United States and developing countries.”

In the end, Mr Donald said he just wants to be able to hand his family operation down to his sons and grandchildren.

“The beef industry is not asking for a handout from Washington. We just want the opportunity to compete for consumers in Korea, Colombia and Panama,” he said. “Exports have added a $145 per head advantage and these agreements will increase that number. Pass the trade agreements and enhance America’s cattle producers’ ability to do what we do best – produce the safest, most wholesome and affordable beef in the world.”

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