Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded key committee passage of a comprehensive trade package that includes Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. The Senate Finance Committee, of which Cantwell is a member, approved the three trade agreements today. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the FTAs tomorrow, after which they would come to the full Senate for a vote. According to the International Trade Commission, these agreements will create 250,000 U.S. jobs and increase U.S. exports by $13 billion.
Washington state is the nation's second largest grower and exporter of fruit, with exports of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables valued at more than $1.8 billion in 2009, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The three trade agreements are expected to increase direct exports from Washington state alone by $52.8 million, according to the Farm Bureau, which also estimates that the increased marketing opportunities for Washington's farmers and ranchers will add hundreds of jobs to the state's economy.
"Passing these trade agreements would be a major step forward for Washington state's agricultural and export economy," Cantwell said. "By passing this trade package, we're supporting jobs in Washington and across the nation -- from the apple farm, to the trucks that carry the apples to the port, to the shipping jobs that send the product overseas. These trade agreements are about opening up markets to our goods and making sure our Washington state products stay competitive in a global economy."
With the European Union's Free Trade Agreement with South Korea now in effect (since July 1, 2011), finalizing the United States-South Korea FTA soon would help secure America's place in an important export market. In the first two months after the agreement took effect, the European Union's exports to South Korea have grown by nearly 28 percent compared to the same period in 2010.
With South Korea representing Washington's fourth largest export market, Washington state agriculture will see significant benefits under the United States-Korea FTA. Currently, South Korea has a 45 percent tariff on apples and pears, 24 percent on cherries, as well as tariffs on wine and potatoes. Despite this, Washington state exported $11 million worth of cherries to South Korea in 2010. The reduction in tariffs would reduce the price of cherries by 75 cents a pound in South Korea and could increase Washington wine sales by 45 percent. Upon implementation, South Korea FTA will immediately eliminate the 18 percent tariff on frozen potatoes. Beef production is the state's 5th largest commodity and the market for American beef in South Korea has the potential to reach $1 billion.
Washington's ports and waterways -- the closest to Asia and Alaska of all U.S. ports -- also stand to significantly benefit from the U.S.-Korea FTA. Washington state is the 3rd largest exporting state in the country and together, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma comprise the second largest container load center in the country. Last year, $704 million in state revenue was generated from port activities and 8,480 companies exported their goods from operations in Washington.