In the coming days, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will likely debate the three pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea (KORUS), Colombia, and Panama. National Farmers Union members passed a policy resolution this spring in opposition to the pending FTAs as they currently stand. In order for NFU to support these agreements, several inequalities which stem from lack of market access, weak labor standards, extraordinary foreign investor right and currency manipulation, need to be addressed.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has released their analysis of the KORUS agreement, finding that the losers under the agreement include several in the farming community: oilseeds (which include soybeans), wheat and specialty crops (which include forages, sheep, goats and horses). The Economic Policy Institute projects the agreement will cost the U.S. 159,000 jobs in the first seven years- not exactly the economy booster that our society needs and politicians tout.
The U.S. Treasury declared South Korea a currency manipulator in 1988 and 1999. In February 2011, the Treasury issued a warning that South Korea was taking the same steps as it did before past devaluations. Devaluing their currency could wipe out any gains achieved in any sector of the agreement. The KORUS agreement does nothing to address currency manipulation, which puts U.S. producers at an economic disadvantage.
Although U.S. agriculture has a substantial net trade surplus with the world as a whole, U.S. agriculture is currently running a net trade deficit with countries that have FTAs with the U.S. In fact, U.S. agriculture has actually done worse after FTAs have been entered into. Before your members of Congress debate these issues, make your voice heard and let them know the facts. For more information on our policies related to trade, please peruse the written testimony submitted to Congress by South Dakota Farmers Union member, Dennis Jones, and also NFU President, Roger Johnson.