Disagreements hold up free trade agreements

Disagreements hold up free trade agreements

Saturday, May 14 2011 @ 07:04 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 64
By MARC HELLER – TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT – WASHINGTON — Free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea remain in limbo despite what supporters say would be benefits to U.S. dairy farmers and other businesses. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and several farm groups Thursday urged lawmakers to approve the deals, taking their case to the House Agriculture Committee. But disagreements in the House about whether to consider all three together, as well as opposition from labor unions and a few farm groups, have complicated the deliberations. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is split, supporting the South Korea deal but leaning against the others.
“It does not appear that the others have the same benefit to business interests in America,” Mr. Owens said in a telephone interview Thursday. He said he believes the Korea agreement carries benefits to agriculture and the auto industry, reflected by broader support among interest groups. He said he has received little pushback from the congressional district on his support for the South Korea deal. The National Milk Producers Federation, representing farmer-owned bargaining cooperatives, supports all three, said a spokesman, Christopher Galen. So does the International Dairy Foods Association, representing makers of cheese and other dairy products.

The IDFA estimated that U.S. dairy exports from the Korea deal could more than triple in value, by up to $336 million, and that the agreement is the most important since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico — although the industry is split on how much benefit dairy farmers have seen from that. The American Farm Bureau Federation supports them, while the National Farmers Union is opposed. The NFU warned Thursday that free trade agreements generally seem to hurt agriculture and not live up to promises of increased exports for U.S. goods.

Mr. Owens said rumors that the GOP leadership will schedule a vote come up regularly. “Almost every week there’s a rumor that it’s coming to the floor,” he said. Lawmakers are divided about considering them as a package, Mr. Owens said. The agreements for the three countries have a better reception in the dairy industry than a New Zealand deal, which industry groups say would open the United States to more cheap imports. On that proposal, the NMPF has urged that dairy products be left largely out of the deal.

Post a Response

Post a Response