Expanding international markets for American goods and products has benefitted Nebraska producers, manufacturers, and consumers. Trade also represents an all-too-rare bright spot for bipartisan cooperation in Washington at a time when politics often trumps pragmatism.
Despite widespread complaints of "political gridlock," we have made substantial progress in opening new markets and reducing barriers for American exports. In my opinion, the enactment of trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama was the best bipartisan accomplishment of the President's first term.
This week, I held three public forums across the Third District to help individuals and businesses better understand the value of global trade and provide information on expanding market access for local products. The meetings were attended by a variety of Nebraskans interested in selling their goods to new markets and those with stories of how they have benefited from expanded trade, as well as representatives from state and local resources involved in helping individuals and businesses begin or expand exporting.
Preferred Popcorn in Chapman is one of the best examples of a Nebraska company utilizing the new trade agreements. On the day the Colombia trade agreement entered into force, Preferred sold ten shipping containers of popcorn to a buyer in the South American country -- enough for about 9 million people. This sale was a direct result of the free trade agreement and is a benefit to the company, its employees in Nebraska, the producers who grow the popcorn, and the local economy.
Before the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement entered into force, the average U.S. tariff on Colombian goods was 3 percent, while Colombia's average tariff on U.S. goods was 12.5 percent. Tariff rates on most products, including popcorn, have now been eliminated.
This trade also helps build positive connections between our two countries. Colombia is an American ally in a region where several nations, including Venezuela, are not always friendly to American interests. In the last decade, Colombia has made vast improvements to their national security and in their fight against international drug traffickers. Increased trade will help solidify these gains, and maintain good relationships while benefiting consumers and businesses in both nations.
This week I also heard examples of Nebraska companies expanding their footprint in Asia, home to some of the fastest growing economies on Earth. The United States is currently involved in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement among several nations representing more than 40 percent of global trade. The last round of TPP negations in July was very successful; Japan joined half way through the talks. With 95 percent of U.S. beef now qualifying for import to Japan, the island nation could once again become our number one market for beef exports.
We are also in the early stages of negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union, which the President announced earlier this year. TPP and TTIP both have the potential to greatly expand free trade and grow economies around the world. They also have the potential to exclude some Nebraska agriculture goods if we are not careful.
As we negotiate new trade agreements around the world, we must continue to address tariff and non-tariff barriers, and promote enforceable, science-based regulatory systems. As a member of the Committee on Ways and Means, which has jurisdiction over tax and trade issues, I will continue to insist on these standards to ensure Nebraska products are treated fairly in the international market.
While we must avoid these potential pitfalls, the future remains bright for increased international trade. I am optimistic these robust agreements will benefit Nebraska exporters and consumers around the world.