Ag industry welcomes U.S-Korea FTA implementation


A free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea was officially implemented on Thursday, eliminating the bound tariff on U.S. wheat and other products.

The agreement was signed in 2007 and approved by Congress, along with similar agreements with Colombia and Panama, last fall. Since that time, trade diplomats from both countries have been working to activate the agreement, a process known formally as “entering into force.” Now in effect, the agreement makes nearly 80 percent of U.S. exports, including two-thirds of ag exports, duty free.

South Korea is consistently a top ten market for U.S. wheat and imported more than 1.6 million tons of U.S. wheat valued at approximately $468 million in marketing year 2010/2011.

The U.S. wheat industry praised the entering into force and urged continued work to implement the Colombia and Panama measures.

“Our industry is uniquely trade-dependent, with about half of our production moving to overseas markets each year,” said Erik Younggren, a wheat farmer from Hallock, Minn., and NAWG president, in a joint statement with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the industry’s market development organization.

“Hopefully, the results from the U.S.-Korea FTA will encourage implementation of bilateral agreements with Colombia and Panama that were ratified last year.”

“While that tariff has not been a huge impediment, removing it will help U.S. producers compete with other wheat exporters and help Korean flour millers spend less to buy our wheat,” said Randy Suess, a wheat farmer from Colfax, Wash., and USW chairman.

The United States is the world’s largest wheat exporter, offering customers around the globe a reliable, high-quality supply of all six wheat classes. In the 2010/2011 marketing year, ended May 31, 2011, the U.S. exported nearly 1.3 billion bushels of wheat valued at $10.3 billion, supporting thousands of jobs and rural economies across the country.

The National Corn Growers Association also praised the implementation on behalf of the corn industry.

“NCGA greatly appreciates all the work put forth to fully implement the U.S./Korea FTA,” said Chad Blindauer, chair of NCGA’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team.  “Korea is an important market for America’s corn farmers and we will now see expanded opportunities for corn and corn co-products.  We thank United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and the Congressional leaders that were dedicated to seeing the FTA completed and implemented.”

Source: NAWG, NCGA