Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus secured a critical commitment from the White House today to step up support for campaigns to promote U.S. beef in Korea and continue pressuring Korea to comply with international standards and allow full market access for U.S. beef. With this commitment, Baucus is now ready to help usher the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) through Congress as chairman of the senate committee which overseas international trade. At the same time, Baucus also announced another critical step toward implementing the U.S.-Colombia Free trade Agreement, which he has championed because of its significant benefits for Montana agriculture producers and manufactures.
"Today's announcement is proof that the good, old-fashioned Montana values of hard work and perseverance pay off. The Korea trade deal will promote American jobs, but it didn't pass the smell test when it comes to access for Montana beef. I didn't let up until I got an agreement that works for Montana ranchers, and now we can move forward on the Korea trade deal with a renewed focus on opening Korea for Montana ranchers and additional resources to support that effort," Baucus said. "Every step toward passing the Colombia trade deal is step toward more demand for Montana products and more jobs for Montana workers. Today's announcement gets us one step closer to the finish line and I won't quit until the deal is done."
"Senator Baucus has always been a powerful and effective advocate for Montana ranchers," said Errol Rice, Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. "It wasn't easy but Senator Baucus kept fighting for a better deal. Thanks to his efforts, Korea is a fast-growing market for us, and we are one step closer to our goal of full access to the Korean beef market."
Baucus efforts on Korea were also applauded by: the American Meat Institute, the American Farm Bureau, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Baucus has long fought to end Korea's unscientific restrictions on American beef imports. He had previously withheld support for the Korea FTA until progress was made on beef. The commitment Baucus secured today includes two key elements:
* The United States Department of Agriculture committed to increase funding dedicated to promote U.S. beef sales in Korea by $1 million in 2011 to favorably review a request from the beef industry for an additional $10 million over the next five years. This additional support would come from USDA's existing budget and will not add a dime to the deficit.
* The United States Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, sent Baucus a letter committing to continue working toward the goal of full market access for American beef and hold ongoing discussions with Korea once the FTA is implemented.
In addition to Korea, Baucus also announced the White House took the first step toward approving and implementing another Free trade Agreement with Colombia today. Baucus has lead the fight to move forward on the Colombia agreement in Congress because of the important benefits is holds for Montana agricultural produces and manufactures. Baucus brought 15 Montana farmers and business owners on a trade mission to Colombia earlier this year to press for the agreement. He welcomed a letter from United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk today saying the Administration was ready to begin technical discussions on the bill to implement the FTA.
As Chairman of the Finance Committee, with sole jurisdiction over international trade, Baucus will be a leader in ensuring both trade agreements can pass through Congress before becoming implemented.