Friday, October 21, 2011

President Obama Signs Free Trade Agreements, Renews Trade Adjustment Assistance

A legislative victory for the President, and a rare moment of bipartisanship from the GOP...
President Obama signed the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements and the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance during a series of Oval Office ceremonies on Friday beginning at 9:40 AM, joined by Cabinet Secretaries, lawmakers, and business CEOs. Congress passed the trio of trade deals last Wednesday night, ending a years-long impasse and handing President Obama an impressive legislative victory just in time for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's State Visit. (Above: The President, mid-signing)

Joining the President for the Korea signing ceremony, according to the White House:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Labor Secretary Hilda Solis; Commerce Secretary John Bryson (just approved by the Senate Thursday night); US Trade Representative Ron Kirk; Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.); Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas); Jim McNerney, CEO, Boeing; Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox; William Hwang, chairman, Korea Alliance for Free Trade; William Yeargin, CEO of Correct Craft, Inc.; Andrew Liveris, CEO, Dow Chemical.

The Korea Agreement is a particular boon for US farmers and ranchers, opening the high-value Korea beef market, which could be worth up to $1.8 billion when the Agreement is fully implemented. The US is the largest beef producer in the world, and the second largest beef exporter. President Lee was served ready-for-export Texas Wagyu Beef at the State Dinner, and President Obama also took him out to a steak dinner at a suburban Virginia restaurant on the eve of his State Visit.

"These agreements will increase U.S. exports and American jobs. The Korea agreement will support an estimated 70,000 U.S. jobs and increase U.S. GDP by at least $11 billion due to increased exports of goods alone," said Ambassador Kirk in a statement. Read more here.

The passage of the Agreements is one of the few moments of agreement between the President and Republicans in recent months; Mr. Obama and the GOP pushed for passage, arguing that the agreement would produce hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Democrats were sharply divided; the majority of the House Democratic caucus voted against the trade deals, with Colombia drawing the most noes -- 158, including from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), though she voted for the other two.

The fact sheets for the expected impact on America's agriculture sector:

*Fact Sheet On US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement [PDF]

*Economic Value of US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement [PDF]

*USTR agriculture information for South Korea agreement is here.

*USDA's Fact Sheet on Benefits For Agriculture [PDF]

Other fact sheets:

*Fact Sheet: Agriculture and the US-Panama Trade Agreement [PDF]

*Fact Sheet: Expanding US Markets For America's Farmers and Ranchers through US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement [PDF]

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House