WASHINGTON (May 12, 2011) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture on the pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
NFU has historically opposed free trade agreements on the basis that the agreements were more likely to increase imports rather than open new markets to U.S. goods, as claimed by proponents. Vague promises of “market access” have been too often empty and factually inaccurate.
“NFU supports trade: fair, mutually beneficial trade that seeks to increase human welfare and respects sovereign nations’ need for food and national security,” said Johnson. “The pending agreements lack key provisions in achieving this goal. To meet these standards, we must follow the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, which addresses environmental, health, and labor standards of all countries involved in the agreement and deals with issues such as currency manipulation. It would also increase inspections on imported food, mandate trade pact reviews, and restore Congressional oversight to future agreements.”
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) projects that the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement will cost 159,000 American jobs and worsen the U.S. trade deficit by $308 to $416 million.
“At a time of high unemployment, it is unwise to pass an agreement that would lead to even more job losses,” said Johnson. “The U.S. stands to lose nearly 160,000 jobs, and that is a best-case scenario. That does not consider the fact that South Korea has a history of manipulating its currency and has recently taken similar steps to devalue their currency again, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Such manipulation would worsen the trade deficit and would cause even greater job losses and higher trade deficits than projected.”
Johnson pointed out that historically, the U.S. agriculture industry tends to do worse following the signing of trade agreements.
“U.S. agriculture has a history of generating agriculture trade surplus,” said Johnson. “We have a very efficient system of family farmers, ranchers and fishermen, and have historically provided a safety net for agriculture that helps our producers survive difficult times. This has resulted in long-term agricultural surpluses. After America signs trade agreements with other countries, U.S. agriculture’s trade balance actually worsens.”
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