Members of Congress;
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) would like to offer the following comments on the three proposed free trade agreements currently under consideration: the South Korean, Panamanian, and Colombian Free Trade Agreements.
USCA has supported the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement since it was originated, with the caveat that multiple items of concern to the U.S. beef industry be considered and agreed upon before its circulation. These items were addressed by both the Administration through the continued efforts taken by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) as well as being addressed by several Representatives and Senators, notably Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). Chairman Baucus and the USTR worked diligently this past year and USCA was pleased when several issues of concern to our organization were addressed. The U.S.-Korean FTA will now include a commitment by the Administration to allocate additional funding to beef promotion within Korea. We urge you to continue working to address the issue of full-access for U.S. beef within Korea as the FTA progresses in its implementation. The opening of market access into Korea for U.S. beef as well as the reduction of tariffs are two points pivotal to USCA’s support of the agreement.
While the U.S.-Korean FTA includes guarantees for increased market access for U.S. beef, increased promotional opportunities, and provides a starting point from which tariffs will continue to be reduced, the Columbia FTA contains several points of concern for the nation’s cattle industry that have yet to be addressed by the Administration and Congress. Throughout the Colombia trade negotiations, USCA requested that issues regarding both the cyclical and perishable nature of beef products and the lack of a proper origin labeling system within Columbia be addressed. Neither of these issues has been addressed and USCA is concerned with the adverse effect this will have on our nation’s beef producers. Specifically, USCA requested that adequate safeguards be implemented to account for the perishable and cyclical nature of beef products. Once beef is processed, the duration of its shelf life immediately begins to decrease. The market access available through the Colombia FTA would effectively increase the supply of beef products entering the U.S. marketplace; without proper safeguards, the nation’s cattle industry will be susceptible to increased price fluctuations and unfair market access.
USCA also requested an adequate origin classification system in Colombia be in place prior to the passage of any trade agreement. Colombia shares a border with Brazil, a country which produces over 170 million head of cattle, a figure which far surpasses the number of cattle in Canadian and Australian herds. Per an existing agreement between Colombia and Brazil, Brazilian cattle processed in Colombia will have access to U.S. markets. Opening the United States to Colombian beef will essentially open these same markets to trans-shipment of beef into the United Stated from Brazil. Combined with the lack of safeguards, these combined components will place the U.S. cattle producer at a competitive disadvantage and therefore, USCA urges you to oppose the U.S.-Colombian FTA as written.
USCA will continue to remain neutral on the Panamanian FTA as it will have no foreseeable substantial economic impact on the U.S. cattle industry.
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and its membership encourage you to review and consider each free trade agreement as an individual document instead of making a commitment to the FTAs as a whole package. We ask that you take the benefits and shortcomings of each document into consideration and take into account how each will affect family ranchers and producers across the nation before giving your consent to their passage.
Please direct your questions or concerns regarding USCA’s position on the pending FTAs to USCA Executive Vice President, Jess Peterson at (202) 870-3867.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of these important matters.
Jon Wooster, President
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association