Ways And Means Planning Colombia FTA Hearing For Next Week

Via Inside U.S. Trade

The House Ways and Means trade subcommittee is planning to hold a hearing on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement as early as March 17. The subject of the hearing will be finding a path forward for the Colombia FTA, and the committee is still in the process of determining a list of witnesses who will testify at the hearing, sources said. Read more of this post

Vilsack: U.S. Will Not Demand More On Beef Before Sending Up Korea FTA

Via Inside U.S. Trade

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week made clear that the Obama administration will not demand that South Korea provide further concessions on market access for U.S. beef exports as a precondition for submitting the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement to the U.S. Congress for a vote.

“I think it is going to be a little bit difficult to do that under the circumstances,” Vilsack told reporters on March 8, when asked if the administration was seeking additional beef concessions before the FTA faces a vote in the Senate. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has said he will vote against the FTA absent more progress on beef.

Vilsack argued that the United States should focus on passing the Korea FTA, as doing so will lower the tariffs faced by U.S. beef exporters. The more that South Korean consumers are exposed to U.S. beef, the more they will accept it and demand it, which will make it easier to further open the Korean beef market in the future, he said.

“The focus here has to be on quick [FTA] ratification, so that we can start receiving the benefits of this, and then as we do, we gain market share, we gain greater consumer acceptance and confidence. It’s just going to lead to more opportunities,” he said.

“We … are anxious to promote as much trade within the framework as possible so that we increase the comfort level of Korean consumers and get them to acquire a very solid taste and desire for American beef,” he added. Read more of this post

ASA sets policy direction for 2011-12

Soybean producers identified passage of free trade agreements, extension of the biodiesel tax credit, revamping the biodiesel tax credit into a production credit, and greater investment in inland waterways among their legislative priorities.  More than 130 producers gathered last week in Florida on behalf of the American Soybean Association (ASA) to review and revise their policy priorities.

World-Grain.com, March 8, 2011, by World-Grain Staff

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, U.S. — Soybean producers from all U.S. soybean growing regions gathered in Tampa, Florida, U.S., last week to review and revise the policy direction of the American Soybean Association (ASA). More than 130 producers from ASA’s 26 state affiliates served as voting delegates in this annual process that guides the ASA as it pursues future initiatives to improve U.S. soybean farmer profitability.

The voting delegates session was on March 5, following conclusion of the annual Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show. What follows are some of the most significant additions and modifications covering a variety of important soybean issues.
View important, bold issues below. Read more of this post

Baucus, Hatch Say Korea FTA Talks Will Continue, Press for Similar Discussions on Colombia, Panama

Source: Senate Finance Committee

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said today they will continue technical discussions with the Administration on the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and called on U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to lay out a specific plan and timetable to advance the pending bilateral trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

The text of the letter from Senators Baucus and Hatch follows below.

Dear Ambassador Kirk:

Thank you for your letter of March 7, 2011 in which you informed us that you have completed your preparatory work on the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and are interested in advancing technical discussions of the implementing bill and Statement of Administration Action. As you know, our staffs met with your General Counsel on Friday, February 11, 2011 to begin the technical discussions on the implementing bill for the U.S.-Korea FTA. A second meeting on these matters has been scheduled for March 8, 2011. We will continue to work with you and your staff on this important agreement.

Meanwhile, we are looking forward to your testimony on Wednesday. At that time, we expect that you will be able to answer the specific questions in our letter of February 14, 2011 regarding next steps on timing and substance regarding the U.S.-Colombia and U.S.-Panama FTAs.

U.S. Could Use Amendments As Method To Enact Changes To Korea FTA

Inside U.S. Trade
Posted: November 24, 2010

With the U.S. looking to enact substantial changes to the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement, including changes to tariff phaseout periods, sources said the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will most likely incorporate any changes to the FTA through amendments that USTR would submit to Congress for a vote alongside the FTA implementing legislation.

Under this approach, the FTA itself would still be protected by fast track procedures, and would still be subject to an up-or-down vote in Congress, because the implementing legislation would still reflect the original agreement that was struck by the Bush administration and notified to Congress while fast track was still in effect, sources said.

USTR officials have informally indicated that such amendments could be defended as allowing the FTA to “operate fully,” according to informed sources. Read more of this post