Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus praised the enactment of three job-creating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) today after having led the effort through the Senate as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Montana farmers, ranchers and manufacturers have cheered new opportunities created under the South Korea, Colombia, and Panama FTAs the President signed into law today.
"Today we celebrate a victory for Montana jobs and our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers who have been fighting hard to gain a competitive edge in three lucrative and fast-growing markets. I've worked side-by-side with Montana ranchers, farmers and business owners for many years to get to this day and I will continue fighting to make sure our businesses get a fair shake as we implement these agreements," Baucus said.
Baucus also fought to pass job training for American workers, known Trade Adjustment Assistance, along with the FTAs. And Trade Adjustment Assistance was signed into law today as well.
The Colombia FTA will provide particular benefits to Montana farmers and ranchers by immediately eliminating Colombia's duties on high-quality Montana beef, wheat and barley. Colombian tariffs currently render Montana malt barley non-competitive and make Montana wheat less competitive than wheat from other countries that have trade agreements with Colombia.
The Colombia FTA would also benefit Montana manufacturing firms by immediately eliminating duties on 80 percent of exports to Colombia, with the remainder eliminated over time. Colombian businesses can already sell the vast majority of their products in the United States without paying import duties under U.S. trade preference programs. The U.S.-Colombia FTA would level the playing field and give Montana businesses the same duty-free access to sell their goods in Colombia - including Montana businesses that participated in Baucus' trade mission in February.
The Korea FTA will phase out Korea's 40 percent tariff on U.S. beef imports over 15 years. But, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade, Baucus insisted that the United States also take steps to expand beef market access in Korea for American farmers and ranchers. The commitment Baucus secured from the White House regarding beef includes two key elements:
1. The United States Department of Agriculture committed to increase funding that will be used to promote U.S. beef sales in Korea by $1 million in 2011 and 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.
2. 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 discussions with Korea once the FTA is implemented.
U.S. agricultural exports to Panama have doubled over the last five years. The Panama agreement will improve Montana's market access by immediately eliminating tariffs on Montana's high-quality beef and wheat. It will also ensure Montana exporters do not lose ground to their competitors from Canada and Europe, which have signed their own deals with Panama.
Worker Retraining - Trade Adjustment Assistance
* Since Baucus updated TAA in 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.
* Eureka held a groundbreaking on new Wood Products Center in July as a direct result of TAA.
* In September Roseburg Forest Products mill in Missoula filed for Trade Adjustment Assistance.