There’s been a lot going on in the news lately. With the killing of Osama bin Laden, the flooding of the Mississippi and the Governator’s troubles in California, you might understandably have missed a proclamation that came out of the White House last week.
In it, President Obama declared this week to be World Trade Week.
But for folks in agriculture, every week recently has been World Trade Week, as we wait for the final i to be dotted on a deal that would send three long-pending Free Trade Agreements to Congress for approval.
These FTAs, with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, have been languishing since 2006 and 2007. We’ve lost a billion dollars in market share in South America, much of it in corn exports, as our friends and allies there make pacts with other countries because they’re tired of—and insulted by having to—wait for us to enact the agreements.
Very few trades and even fewer political issues are considered win-win. This, however, is one of them. These countries are clamoring for our goods. We’re clamoring for their markets. Passing the FTAs would support 9,000 in America for every billion dollars in new exports. The Korea FTA alone is expected to create about 70,000 jobs, according to the Obama Administration. More than 22,000 of those jobs would be in agriculture.
You can see why every week is World Trade Week for farmers and ranchers. We’ve been working hard to get these FTAs passed. As Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson recently wrote in an opinion piece to newspapers around the state, it’s like we’re in first place with 100 yards left in a marathon, and we’ve stopped to re-tie our shoes as our competition comes up from behind. If we don’t get up and finish, we’re going to be overtaken and lose out.
And so, we have a proclamation of our own, since President Obama’s didn’t mention passage of the FTAs:
- Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia were negotiated in 2006 and 2007, and have not yet been sent to Capitol Hill for approval;
- The U.S. has lost more than $400 million in corn exports to Colombia alone in the past two years;
- American heavy equipment manufacturers would finally be able to ship their products without excessive tariffs;
- And, whereas unemployment claims rose in three of four weeks from April to May;
- Now, therefore, the Illinois Farm Bureau, representing two out of every three Illinois farmers, does hereby proclaim that President Obama should immediately send, and that Congress should immediately pass, the Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Doing so would benefit our economy and create jobs. Doing so would be the perfect way to celebrate “World Trade Week.”
Dated the eighteenth of May, of the year two thousand eleven.