The signatory organizations represent a wide range of industry interests and include 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.
The organizations claim that slow progress on free trade agreements could jeopardize the United States’ present and future trade opportunities with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, to which the US exports more than $2bn worth of packaged foods and beverages each year. The signatory associations said that food and beverage manufacturing represents 14 percent of the United States’ total manufacturing sector’s workforce, with 1.7m jobs, and exports to more than 200 countries were worth over $50bn last year.
“The longer it takes to implement these agreements, the more we risk losing not only future opportunities to create jobs and increase exports, but also the market share and access we currently enjoy,” the letter said. “Already these countries either have, or are pursuing, free trade pacts with some of our biggest economic competitors.”
According to the Food Export Association of the Midwest USA and Food Export USA – Northeast, a pending free trade agreement with South Korea “is expected to generate more opportunities for US food and agricultural products than any agreement since NAFTA”, but European exporters present significant competition.
In February, the European Union and South Korea signed a free trade agreement that will bring to an end almost all tariffs between the two economies in July, leading to duty free access for the majority of European food and beverage products, compared to just two percent of EU food exports entering South Korea duty free prior to the agreement.
Colombia already has trade agreements with the EU and Canada, and Panama has agreements with Canada and Chile.
“Our organizations believe we must embrace these opportunities now in order to provide America with a much needed economic boost,” the industry letter said. “We ask you to act quickly to approve and extend these trade pacts and help dramatically improve the economic outlook for US businesses.”
Other signatories are: American Meat Institute, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, National Chicken Council, National Confectioners Association, National Fisheries Institute, National Frozen Pizza Institute, National Turkey Federation, Pet Food Institute and Snack Food Association.
A copy of the letter is available here.