United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today voted in favor of three free trade agreements that will open new export markets for Louisiana businesses, strengthen the state's economy and decrease the U.S. trade deficit. The new agreements are with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.
"From its founding, Louisiana has been a hub for trade and is the gateway to the economic heartland of the United States. In fact, Louisiana hosts five of the country's top 13 ports and exported more than $40 billion in goods last year, making it the fourth largest exporting state in the country. I voted in favor of these three agreements because they present excellent opportunities for Louisiana farmers, fishermen and manufacturers. These agreements will further promote small business exports and help our companies compete in these growing markets. Louisiana sends everything from sugar to oil to rice to more than 200 countries worldwide through our 31 ports," Sen. Landrieu said. "These exports mean jobs in Louisiana -- from the suppliers, to the manufacturers, to the shipping companies, to the port workers. Exporting is a practical solution for small businesses looking to survive and grow. One of the conditions for my support of these three agreements was the passage of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program extension to help workers that may be adversely impacted by increased imports. Free trade requires that all players operate on as level a playing field as possible -- accountable to the same labor laws, environmental standards, and governmental intervention."
The Senate passed the first agreement, the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act, by a vote of 66 -- 33. Colombia is a fast-growing market with 45 million consumers and is the second largest country in Latin America and the third largest economy in the region. Colombia is Louisiana's 12th largest export market with $727 million in exported goods.
"Of the three countries in the trade agreements, Colombia perhaps presents the most economic opportunities for Louisiana businesses," Sen. Landrieu said. "To concede the Colombian market to China and other countries after years of cooperation on economic and strategic interests is unwise."
Highlights for Louisiana from the agreement with Columbia include:
· Increased Louisiana soybeans exports by more than $600,000 per year
· A phase out of Columbia's 24-percent tariff for refined soybean oil over five years
· Duty free opportunities for Louisiana cotton producers to gain a new partner to spin, cut and sew Louisiana cotton for textiles. Louisiana cotton exports to Colombia could increase by more than $710,000 per year
· An annual increase of 23 percent, to $1.9 million, in U.S. exports in chemical, rubber and plastic goods to Colombia
· Immediate elimination of tariffs on 52 percent of U.S. energy equipment exports
The Trade Promotion Agreement with South Korea won Senate passage this evening with a vote of 83 -- 15. The agreement is estimated by the International Trade Commission to improve the trade balance with Korea by $3.3 billion to $4 billion. Korea has an economy at close to $1 trillion and is the eighth largest trading partner of the U.S. Korea's economy grew 5.8 percent in the second quarter of 2010, and the International Monetary Fund expects it to grow by 6.1 percent in 2010.
"Louisiana farmers stand to benefit greatly from these reductions in agricultural tariffs in Korea," Sen. Landrieu said. "I have heard from my soybean farmers in Louisiana that they have tried in the past to develop a market in Korea, but have had difficulty. This agreement plants the seed of growth in our economies and trade between the two countries."
Highlights for Louisiana from the agreement with South Korea include:
· Exports by farmers and ranchers of grain, beef fruits, and other agricultural products will increase by almost $1.8 billion every year under the agreement
· 50 percent of U.S. chemical exports will receive duty free treatment immediately after the agreement enters into force
· Remaining tariffs will be phased out over 10 years
· Tariffs on such products as silicon and plastics will also be eliminated immediately
Finally, the Trade Promotion Agreement with Panama the Senate passed by a vote of 77 -- 22 this evening.
"Despite having an uneven playing field, Panama is already a great market for U.S. exports. The Trade Promotion Agreement will encourage further expansion and diversification of U.S. exports in the country," Sen. Landrieu said.
Highlights for Louisiana from the agreement with Panama include:
· Ensuring that U.S. companies can compete for contracts on the $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. exports supported an estimated 9.2 million jobs in 2010, up from 8.7 million in 2009. For every billion dollars of exports, more than 5,000 jobs are supported.
The bills, passed earlier this evening by the U.S. House of Representatives, now go to President Barack Obama. He is expected to sign the three agreements into law.