U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced Tuesday that the U.S.-Korea trade agreement will take effect on March 15, 2012. With the implementation almost two-thirds of American farm exports to South Korea will become duty-free including wheat, corn, soybeans and cotton. Tariffs on U.S. beef shipments will be phased out over the next 15 years.
Bush-era USTR Susan Schwab negotiated the trade deal with Seoul. Schwab says she finds it hard to believe it has taken so long to get to this point.
"It is unbelievable to me that an agreement like the U.S.-Korea agreement that took one year to negotiate, which is unbelievable that it only took a year to negotiate such a complicated agreement, 2006 to 2007, that five years later it still has not been implemented," Schwab said. "And the Europeans negotiated their agreement, piggybacked it on ours, and their agreement has been in effect since last July."
Schwab also conducted the FTA negotiation with Colombia, another potentially big market for U.S. ag exports. The Obama Administration is still working to implement the terms of that agreement.
"Hopefully it will be implemented in 2012, but five years after the negotiation, I hope this is not the norm," Schwab said. "That three year hiatus was I think because the Obama Administration was just totally intimidated by big labor. You know the AFLCIO and the UAW, the other unions, they just don't want any of these trade agreements to go through."
Schwab, now a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, says it's a shame that organized labor fails to recognize that foreign trade creates jobs for American workers. It is estimated that 10%, or 12 million jobs in the United States are dependent on exports and with more than 96% of the world's consumers living outside of the U.S. exports are important for American industry.