From Commodity Classic (Anaheim, Calif.) – Trade is the top wheat industry priority on the agenda at Commodity Classic, with representatives from NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates taking the convention as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of trade to policy makers, their fellow growers and the media.
The pending free trade agreements – and particularly the U.S./Colombia FTA – are crucial to the continued growth of wheat exports and the wheat industry.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that Colombia alone purchased $1.67 billion in U.S. agricultural products in 2008. These sales would be all but lost if the U.S. does not ratify the U.S./Colombia FTA soon. The U.S. wheat industry estimates that imports by loyal Colombian customers have been valued at an average of $165 million per year, but most of those sales will be lost to Canada if it ratifies its own trade agreement with Colombia in the next few months.
“While the U.S. and Colombian millers have long-standing ties and strong customer loyalty, trade diversion will inevitably occur when Canadian wheat enters Colombia at $40 per metric ton less than U.S. wheat as a result of their bilateral agreement,” said USW Chair Janice Mattson. “This is just one example of how a robust trade agenda is critical to U.S. economic growth, to global economic recovery, and to meeting the President’s goal of generating two million new jobs in the next five years.”
The industry was pleased to see the release of the President’s Global Trade Strategy on Monday and looks forward to collaborating with the Administration to help meet its explicitly stated goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years.
According to the President’s strategy, work is underway to resolve pending issues on the Colombia, Korea, and Panama FTAs. The U.S. wheat industry supports the immediate ratification of all pending trade agreements and believes a robust trade agenda would lift economic opportunity for the entire U.S. wheat supply chain from which roughly half of annual production is exported in a typical year.
“We know the climate in Washington right now is tough, but we’re adamant that these agreements get their day before our legislators,” said NAWG President Karl Scronce, a producer from Klamath Falls, Ore. “They will help create and save jobs, which is what everyone needs to focus on right now.”
“Our industry has reason to be proud of the long-standing ties we have built with our customers around the globe,” Mattson said. “Our trade agreements can ease market access barriers and help us build on those ties to create more competitive opportunities.”
Industry leaders were also pleased to see the President’s new trade initiatives in the Asia Pacific region and his goal of seeking a balanced Doha agreement. As Mattson notes, “a balanced global trade agreement should give us significant new market access, eliminate monopoly export state trading, and protect the critical safety net for farmers and ranchers. Long-term it is our best hope for leveling the trade playing field.”
“With trade barriers cleared, U.S. wheat producers can compete more effectively,” Scronce said. “We look forward to working with the President to help clear the road to more open trade that will help increase the job opportunities and income our economy needs so much.”