Senator Mike Johanns today led a bipartisan effort in support of pledges President Obama made in his State of the Union address to increase American exports and strengthen trade relationships abroad. In a letter sent to the President on Friday, Sen. Johanns and 17 cosigners, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), expressed their commitment to help the President meet the goals of doubling American exports over the next five years and ratifying pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.
"I was very pleased to hear President Obama state his support for increasing exports and expanding trade during the State of the Union address," Johanns said. "With unemployment at 10 percent, we should be pursuing every possible avenue to promote good opportunities for job growth and business investment. Our businesses, farmers, and ranchers produce the highest quality products in the world and deserve an opportunity to compete on a level playing field."
A copy of the letter can be found below.
• As Secretary of Agriculture, Sen. Johanns promoted fair trade and played a role in the negotiations of several trade agreements.
• Colombia: The United States has spent more than $2.5 billion in tariffs since the agreement was signed on November 22, 2006 that otherwise would have been eliminated with a Colombian trade agreement. (Latin American Trade Coalition, 1/29/10)
o A study by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) estimates a Colombian trade agreement would increase U.S. exports by $1.1 billion annually.
o More than 90 percent of Colombia's exports to the U.S. enter duty-free, while U.S. exports to Colombia face tariffs as high as 35 percent.
• South Korea: USITC projects reducing Korean tariffs would increase U.S. exports to Korea by $10 billion annually.
o Nearly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports to Korea would become duty-free.
• Panama: More than 60 percent of U.S. agricultural exports would become duty-free.
o The U.S.-Panama agreement would resolve regulatory and trade barriers and give U.S. companies increased access to Panamanian markets.