Roundtable discussion on Free Trade Agreements

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Congressman Rick Crawford held a roundtable discussion with a variety of different people in the agricultural industry on Tuesday.

The focus of the meeting was the recent Free Trade Agreements that will be voted on in the House of Representatives at the end of the week.

Congressman Crawford feels passing these trade agreements is a step in the right direction. "We're paying pretty high tariffs for some of our goods, particularly agricultural goods, and that puts us at a competitive disadvantage, " Crawford said. "What this agreement will do in Columbia, Panama and South Korea is lift those tariffs so our agricultural goods will go into those countries without those tariffs, almost immediately. We're talking about two and a half billion dollars AG producers can expect to see in the next year due to these free trade agreements."

Representative of the American Soybean Association, Ted Glaub, says he's seen the soybean market at an economic disadvantage first hand. "In Columbia, we've gone from over two hundred and fifty-seven million exports in that country in 2008 down to one hundred and eight million in 2010 because other trade agreements have been made with other countries. We've been at an economic disadvantage."

Crawford said he held the meeting in order to answer any questions people might have and learn what they thought. "What we're doing here today is getting everyone's last minute opinion. In general terms, I think agriculture is favorable. These trade agreements aren't perfect and it's going to take some time to work them to a point that they are perfect from an agricultural perspective. But I just think it's really important that we maintain an open line of communication with our AG producers, cotton, rice, soy bean, poultry, cattle, and even peanuts. To make sure we know where they stand on these free trade agreements and what the potential outcome is."

Glaub says soybeans are a huge export in the United States. "The soybeans are one of our major exports. For example, one out of every four rows of soybeans are exported to China. But still, we want to expand that market to places like Korea. If we can expand our market there perhaps we can sell more things like poultry. We want to keep our soybeans competitive on the world market. Also, if we process the products here this will create more jobs."

Crawford says that 95% of our market is outside of the United States.  "We really need to work hard to tap into that market and expand. This is going to be key to recovering our economy and growing jobs here in the United States."

For more information about the Free Trade Agreements or the roundtable discussion, log onto this website.

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