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Industry welcomes new US free trade agreements

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 24-Oct-2011

Industry welcomes new US free trade agreements

Free trade agreements signed last week with Colombia, Panama and South Korea will be critically important for increasing US food exports to these markets and create a level playing field for US manufacturers, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has said.

Parallel free trade agreements have been negotiated by other countries that represent major competition to the US market, such as an agreement between Canada and Colombia, which was signed on August 15, and one between South Korea and the European Union, which went into effect on July 1.

The GMA said that establishing similar agreements between South Korea, Colombia and Panama and the United States would help increase US competitiveness in these markets, and spur the industry to innovate, expand and create new jobs.

“The FTAs [free trade agreements] will be critically important to increasing the exports of US food and consumer products to these growing markets,” said GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey.

“…With its 1.4 million manufacturing employees that generate $1.1 trillion in annual sales, the food, beverage and CPG industry is an important cornerstone of the US and global economy and these agreements will ensure US goods will not be placed at a competitive disadvantage.”

President Obama signed the three free trade agreements into law last week, ending a four-year period in which there had been no trade partnerships. The decision to sign the agreements attracted bipartisan support, despite opposition from labor groups.

Obama called the agreements “a major win for American workers and businesses”, and said they “will significantly boost exports that bear the proud label “Made in America,” support tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property.”

The agreements will eliminate or reduce tariffs on American foods, beverages and other consumer goods exported to Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

In May, 14 major food and beverage organizations wrote to Congress urging swift passage of the free trade agreements, in order to protect and expand US exports.

Signatory organizations included the American Frozen Foods Institute, the American Bakers Association, the Sweetener Users Association, the American Beverage Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the International Dairy Foods Institute, among others.

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