House proposal on Trade Promotion Authority would hurt U.S. agriculture
WASHINGTON - The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) strongly opposes a proposal advanced by the U.S. House of Representatives leadership to alter the terms of presidential Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
On April 8, President Bush sent implementing legislation for the U.S. - Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement to Congress. Under TPA, Congress has 90 legislative days to consider the trade pact, and subject it to an up-or-down vote. While this provision has long been an integral part of the authority granted to the president to negotiate trade agreements, the House leadership has scheduled a vote today proposing to remove the 90-day timeline.
NCBA President Andy Groseta, a rancher from Cottonwood, Ariz., says the maneuver completely circumvents the authority granted under TPA, and severely threatens our nation's ability to negotiate effectively for free and fair trade.
"NCBA supported Trade Promotion Authority for President Clinton and President Bush, and we will support it for whichever candidate occupies the Oval Office in 2009," Groseta said. "TPA isn't supposed to be about delaying or avoiding votes on specific trade agreements. It's about taking action in a timely fashion, to give our nation the tools it needs to negotiate and implement agreements effectively."
Groseta said further delays for a vote on the Colombia agreement would be particularly frustrating for American agriculture, because the current terms of trade with Colombia are grossly out of balance. While almost all Colombian products shipped to the United States are already free from tariffs, most U.S. exports face significant tariffs and other restrictions when entering Colombia. U.S. beef, for example, faces tariffs of about 80 percent. This imbalance is due in part to the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which Congress recently extended by an overwhelming margin.
"America's agricultural producers find it very hard to compete in a global economy when imports enter our country duty-free, while our outbound products face these outrageously high tariffs and trade barriers,” Groseta said, "Frankly, I don't understand why Congress was so willing to assist producers of Colombian goods by extending the Andean Trade Preferences, but won't stand up and be counted when they have a chance to help our own farmers and ranchers."
The U.S.-Colombia TPA is one of the best-negotiated free trade agreements for U.S. beef to date, eliminating tariffs immediately on prime and choice graded beef. Tariffs on all remaining beef products are phased out over 15 years.
“This is an agreement that will help level the playing field for American agricultural products, and allow us to expand our presence in an important market," Groseta said. “It’s time for Congress to debate the merits of this trade deal, which is exactly what opponents of the agreement seem to want to avoid.”