Montanans from across the state celebrated the news as job-creating trade deals and a worker retraining program championed by Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus cleared the final votes needed to become law. After passage in both the House and Senate tonight, bills to ratify Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama, and renew Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) will be sent to the President's desk to be signed into law.
Here is what Montanans are saying:
***Free Trade Agreements***
Ranchers and Farmers
§ National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Montana rancher Bill Donald:
"NCBA members rallied together contacting members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to stress the importance of trade to their family farms and ranchers. Cattlemen owe a great deal of credit to the relentless efforts of Senator Max Baucus. He fought to ensure beef producers will receive greater access and prices for our products. Montana ranchers need to know that Senator Baucus is a successful champion for free and fair trade."
§ Montana Stockgrowers Executive Vice President Errol Rice:
"The Korea trade deal will help Montana ranchers sell more beef to Korea and it will reduce our costs of doing business there, so we can reinvest back into family farms and ranches across the state. This deal would not have been possible without Senator Baucus. Max refused to take no for an answer, and thanks to his persistence, Montana ranchers will now have a fast growing Korean market to sell to."
§ Gordon Stoner and Lola Raska of Montana Grain Growers Association
"We thank Senator Baucus for his tireless efforts in promoting Montana agriculture worldwide and his leadership in approving these three outstanding FTAs. Montana exports 80 percent of its wheat production, and every overseas market is vital to Montana producers. These agreements will assure that U.S. farmers will remain competitive in the world marketplace." - Gordon Stoner, President.
"The Colombia trade agreement is absolutely critical for Montana farmers, and I can't thank Senator Baucus enough for his leadership on this issue. Wheat is a staple of Montana's economy and exporting more Montana wheat through the FTAs will support farmers and jobs right here in our state," said Lola Raska.
§ Chairman of the Montana Pulse Advisory Committee and the Vice Chairman of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, Kim Murray:
"This is great news! Many thanks to Senator Baucus for his persistence in getting this legislation passed. I am a grower of wheat and pulse crops in northeastern Montana. This FTA will put us on a level playing field with our neighbors to the north and will certainly give the growers in our state an economic boost."
Manufacturers, Business Leaders and Trade Experts
§ Robert Peccia, President CIPP Corp., Helena
"The approval by the U.S. of the Trade Agreement with Colombia is a tribute to Senator Max Baucus' influence in Congress. The trade mission to Colombia and Brazil that I attended with Max made me aware of the respect and admiration other countries have for him. The Trade Agreement is a major step in the ability of our company to market our products and services in Colombia. We have made substantial inroads with Max's help, but the tax burden was a problem for us. With the trade agreement we will now be on a much more competitive footing. Thanks Max!"
CIPP exports tubes, pipes and hoses and fittings of plastics to Colombia. Right now Colombian duties on these exports range from 5 - 20 percent. These duties will be eliminated over the next seven years under the Colombia FTA.
§ Tom Spika, Owner Spika Welding & Manufacturing, Lewistown
"Anything that opens new markets and knocks down trade barriers is definitely a win for small businesses, both here in the middle of Montana and all across the U.S. Markets like Colombia, Korea and Panama hold great potential for Spika Welding to grow our business, and we are so grateful to have Max on our side helping to make that possible. Trade agreements like these are exactly what American manufacturing needs to become an industrial powerhouse once again."
Spika Welding is currently in the contract bid process to export aviation platforms to Colombia, but without the FTA, they would be required to pay 15 percent duties. The duties will be eliminated over the next five years under the Colombia FTA passed today, making Spika much more competitive in the Colombian market.
§ President/CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce Webb Brown:
"Montana businesses are counting on these trade agreements to help us compete around the world and create jobs in Montana, and no one understands that better than Max Baucus. We thank Max for his dogged efforts to make these agreements work for Montana businesses and get them passed so we can get to work selling more Montana-made goods and services around the world. We also support the inclusion of job training support to make sure Montana businesses owners have the best, most skilled workforce to power our companies here in Montana."
§ Nicole Hagerman Miller, Montana World Trade Center:
"These three trade agreements are critical to Montana's ability to compete on a level playing-field in the global economy - and global competitiveness means local jobs. These agreements will help Montana companies reach new customers around the world, increasing demand and future growth for Montana products and services. We applaud Senator Baucus for fighting so hard to make the promises of these FTAs a reality for Montana businesses and workers."
§ Director of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center Steve Holland:
"I had the privilege of visiting Colombia on a trade mission with Senator Baucus earlier this year. I heard from many Colombians, including one of my MSU classmates, their strong desire to buy U.S. goods. The passage of the Colombia FTA will make it much easier for them to do so. The same is true for the Panama and South Korea FTAs."
***Trade Adjustment Assistance***
§ Executive Director of Eureka Rural Development Partners Tracy McIntyre:
"We are very appreciative of the opportunity the CTAA has provided to our community. Not only are we seeing a benefit of immediate construction jobs but we are excited about the creation and retention of jobs in our community and the positive change in our economy we hope to see as a result of the CTAA award. We thank Max for all his efforts to extend TAA on behalf of Montana workers."
Eureka held a groundbreaking on new Wood Products Center in July as a direct result of TAA.
Since 2009, 658 workers at 27 companies in Montana have been approved to receive TAA benefits. These companies include: Plum Creek, Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation, Montana Rail Link, Montana Tunnels Mining, Inc., and A.W. Pratt, Inc.
In fiscal year 2011, $11,452,672 in TAA funds have been provided to help Montana workers.