Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus brought Montana Grain Growers President Gordon Stoner together with a top U.S. trade official and other experts today for a hearing to advance the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Baucus brought Stoner to the Senate to highlight the urgent need to pass the FTA before Montana wheat farmers lose any more businesses to countries like Canada.
"Enacting the Colombia trade agreement is critical to creating jobs, and creating jobs is critical to growing our economy and reducing our debt," said Baucus. "Montana ranchers, farmers and businesses can't afford to lose any further ground in the booming Colombian market."
At the hearing, Baucus asked Stoner to highlight the importance of the FTA for American wheat farmers. Baucus noted the importance of bringing someone like Stoner to Washington to ensure Congress understands the needs of famers on the ground. Stoner said the Colombia FTA was essential to ensuring American farmers can compete on a level playing field.
Canada has passed an FTA with Colombia, set to enter into force in the next few months. If the United States fails to approve its FTA with Colombia, America is likely to lose the entire Colombian wheat market. The FTA would also benefit Montana manufacturing firms by immediately eliminating duties on 80 percent of exports to Colombia, with the remainder eliminated over time.
As chair of the only Senate committee that oversees international trade, Baucus has led the fight to pass the Colombia agreement because of the important benefits it holds for Montana agricultural producers and manufacturers. Baucus brought 15 Montana farmers and business owners on a trade mission to Colombia earlier this year to press for the agreement and welcomed news last week that the White House is now ready to begin technical discussions on the bill to implement the FTA.