U.S. producers to benefit from trade deals, official says

By:  Steve Brown
Source: Capital Press

As trade agreements go into effect, U.S. agricultural producers will have key tariff advantages over other competitors, a top U.S. trade official says.

U.S. exports of all kinds will benefit, Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said at an event hosted by the Washington Council on International Trade.

He credited the Obama administration with making progress in what have traditionally been "incompatible imperatives" of international trade and economic recovery.

In the past three years, trade agreements have been hammered out with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

"With Korea's $1.2 trillion economy and a bilateral trade relationship totaling over $100 billion last year, the U.S.-Korea trade agreement is our most commercially significant trade pact in 18 years," Marantis said.

According to U.S. International Trade Commission estimates, the full elimination of tariffs will increase annual U.S. exports to Korea by up to $11 billion.

Ag producers already benefit from the trade pacts. When the Korea Free Trade Agreement was signed March 15, Korea's 24 percent tariff on sweet cherries was lifted immediately, and the effect was also immediate.

At a Saturday event, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., joined with Marantis and Washington state cherry growers to release new data that show Washington has exported 368,000 boxes of sweet cherries to South Korea as of mid-July -- up from 171,000 boxes during a similar period in 2011.

As tariffs are eliminated from other products such as potatoes and beef, those markets will continue to grow, he said.

Marantis' field of responsibility is trade negotiations and enforcement within the Asia-Pacific region. The Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to grow and open new markets for the U.S., he said.

In countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia that have had a trade differential, "Ag exporters will have a level playing field," he said.