Cantwell: Wash. state exports to benefit from overseas trade deals

On Oct. 12, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive trade package that includes Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. The American Farm Bureau estimates that the increased market opportunities for Washington state under these trade agreements could increase direct exports by $52.8 million per year and add hundreds of jobs to the state economy.

The package now goes to President Obama for his signature, after passing the House by three separate votes. According to the International Trade Commission, these agreements will create 250,000 U.S. jobs and increase U.S. exports by $13 billion.

“This bill is a winner for Washington state’s agricultural and trade economy,”?Sen. Maria Cantwell said.?”The Senate passage of these trade agreements has been years in the making. These trade agreements will open up markets to Washington state goods and make sure our products stay competitive in a global economy. They will support jobs in Washington and across the nation – from the apple orchard, to the trucks that carry the apples to the port, to the shipping jobs that send the product overseas.”

The Korea FTA would immediately eliminate a 15 percent tariff on wine. During fiscal year 2010, 24 percent of the wine exported from Washington went to South Korea. Also under the agreement, South Korea would eliminate a 40 percent tariff on beef over 15 years. The American Farm Bureau estimates that Washington state will increase beef exports by $7 million per year. Beef is the state’s 5th largest commodity, and the market for American beef in South Korea has the potential to reach $1 billion.

Washington state is the nation’s second largest grower and exporter of fruit, with exports of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables valued at more than $1.8 billion in 2009, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Free Trade Agreement with Colombia would immediately eliminate a 15 percent tariff on apples, which the Washington Apple Commission estimates could lead to increases in shipments of 50 to 100 percent this season. This year, Washington state’s apple crop going to Colombia was valued at $4.5 million.