On Friday National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Bill Donald, Senator Max Bacus, D-Mont., and Representative Kevin Brady, R-Texas, held a press conference to discuss the passage by the House and Senate of the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.
Donald told reporters that it was a victory for all of agriculture as well as the entire U.S. economy, mentioning job creation, economic growth, and expanding opportunities for everyone in rural America.
"For those of us in the cattle industry these agreements will allow for greater access and a level playing field for U.S. beef," Donald said. "Beef exports currently add approximately $200 per head to the value of my cattle and I assume that number is going to increase as these agreements are implemented."
Donald went on to say that the agreements will spur demand by eliminating tariffs on U.S. beef. The Panamanian tariffs of 30% on prime and choice cuts of beef will be eliminated immediately and duties on all other cuts would be phased out over the next 15 years. In Colombia the 80% tariff will be eliminated putting U.S. beef on competitive footing with beef from Brazil and Argentina, and Donald says the deal with South Korea could have tremendous impact.
"The agreement with South Korea could result in nearly a $2 billion market once implemented," Donald said. "And probably as important if not more importantly this could serve as a template with other Asian countries."
Baucus, who has been a major proponent of these trade agreements, says that finally tariffs will be more equitable between these nations.
"The average agriculture tariff prior to this agreement on agriculture products coming from Korea into the United States has been 9%," Baucus said. "Whereas the average Korean tariff on U.S. ag products going into Korea was 54%, so this agreement basically gets rid of that huge differential and is a big win for agriculture."
Brady spoke about the need to move quickly to implement these agreements because other countries know the value of these markets.
"Europe, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and others are all moving very aggressively into these beef markets taking frankly our customers and our market share," Brady said. "So the sooner we can get these agreements in force, the better. We are pushing in the House for implementation by the end of the year; that may be ambitious, but in truth we are just anxious to get these in force so we can get a shot at recapturing our market share."