Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined a U.S. trade official and Washington state cherry growers to release new data that shows a substantial increase in cherry exports to South Korea during the first year of the newly implemented Korea Free Trade Agreement.
Cantwell and the Northwest Cherry Growers issued a report showing that Washington has exported 368,000 boxes of sweet cherries to South Korea as of mid-July -- up from 171,000 boxes in 2011 during a similar time period.
Cantwell released the report during a tour of F.C. Bloxom Company, a Seattle export distributor that ships cherries and other products to Korea. She was joined by Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in charge of trade negotiations and enforcement with the Asia-Pacific region.
"We're here today to celebrate the positive outcomes of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement in large part because of the work Senator Cantwell did in ensuring that the agreement met the highest possible standards and eliminated tariffs on products vital to Washington's economy," Marantis said. "We're thrilled to hear that, according to Department of Commerce statistics, total U.S. cherry exports to Korea increased by 60 percent as of May 2012 compared to the same time last year, and that Washington State growers are reporting a doubling of exports to Korea from the same time last year."
Cantwell consistently championed the passage of the Korea Free Trade Agreement through her role on the Senate Finance Committee. On March 15, the U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement went into effect and immediately eliminated a 24 percent tariff on sweet cherries. As a result, cherry growers in Washington state have increased exports of sweet cherries to South Korea.
"Exports mean jobs in Washington state," Cantwell said. "That's why we fought so hard to get this new trade deal done -- to open up new export opportunities for Washington state products and to support Washington jobs. Four months ago our trade agreement with South Korea went into effect, and already our cherry exports to that country have doubled. This agreement was a win for Washington jobs and will continue to bring good news to our export economy."
A report released by Cantwell's office noted the ties between Washington agriculture exports and trade jobs. Nearly $13 billion in food and agriculture products were exported through Washington ports in 2010, the third largest total in the nation. South Korea is the Port of Seattle's fourth largest waterborne trading partner and the Port of Tacoma's third largest international trading partner. The Port of Seattle generates nearly 200,000 jobs in the region, while the Port of Tacoma generates more than 113,000 jobs statewide.
Last year, nearly $16 million worth of sweet cherries were exported to South Korea, the majority of which went through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac). Each year, cargo planes from Sea-Tac Airport export between 25 and 30 million pounds of cherries. South Korea is the fourth largest export market for Washington state goods, taking in $1.4 billion worth of agriculture exports from the state last year.
The trade agreement also eliminated tariffs on various crops important to Washington state's economy, such as wine, potatoes, wheat, and beef. Washington wheat no longer faces a 1.8 percent tariff, which will make the United States more competitive in the Korean market with Australia and Canada. The fourth largest producer of wheat in the nation, Washington state exports 85 percent of its wheat crop each year. The American Farm Bureau estimates Washington state will increase wheat exports by $1.97 million per year to South Korea.
The agreement immediately eliminated a 15 percent tariff on wine. Washington wine already has a strong presence in South Korea's marketplace. During fiscal year 2010, just under one-quarter of all Washington wine exports went to South Korea. According to industry officials, wine exports could increase by as much as 50 percent under the agreement.
The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement immediately eliminated an 18 percent tariff on frozen potato products. It will also gradually eliminate a 30 percent tariff on fresh potato products. As part of the agreement, South Korea agreed to accept 3,000 metric tons of fresh potatoes in 2012 from the U.S. and to increase that amount by 3 percent each year.
The agreement with South Korea will also eliminate a 40 percent tariff on beef over 15 years. The American Farm Bureau estimates Washington state is expected to increase beef exports by $7 million per year. Beef production is the state's fifth largest commodity and the market for American beef in South Korea has the potential to reach $1 billion.