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NDTO News Article

Congress Passes Three Free Trade Agreements

The U.S. House and Senate have approved three trade pacts with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, which will further boost exports in North Dakota.  These agreements are expected to be signed by President Obama on Friday, Oct. 21, 2011.

Leading North Dakota exporters predict the three free trade agreements could increase North Dakota exports by $23 million; exports in the U.S. are expected to increase by $13 billion, in addition to supporting tens of thousands of American jobs.  Additionally, the agreements will eliminate duties on almost two-thirds of American farm exports, and phase out tariffs on more than 95 percent of industrial and consumer exports within five years, making the U.S. more competitive in the three markets.

Recently implemented free trade agreements have already benefited North Dakota significantly.  Since the U.S.-Chile trade agreement was signed in 2004, North Dakota exports to Chile have grown by 545 percent.  The trade agreement signed with Singapore in 2004 has increased North Dakota exports by 450 percent in the country.

The free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea will continue to stimulate North Dakota’s economy.

“The free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are critical to expanding market access for U.S. and North Dakota products abroad.  Not only will these agreements help support our state’s competitiveness in the global economy, but they will also support job creation and company expansion,” said Dean Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office.  “As the state with the second-highest export growth in the nation, these agreements will greatly impact North Dakota companies.”

The agreement with South Korea, the world’s 13th largest economy, was the biggest such deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1994.  Regional food producers, such as members of the Northern Food Grade Soybean Association (NFGSA), have been awaiting the passing of the agreement since it was signed June 30, 2007.

“NFGSA is pleased to hear that finally the free trade agreement with South Korea will be signed. Long term, it should be positive for American soybean exports,” said Curt Petrich, general manager of SunOpta and director of Northern Food Grade Soybean Association.  “Although NFGSA is pleased with the signing of the FTA we are also cautiously optimistic on the implementation and political posturing that will take place implementing a true free trade agreement. NFGSA will be carefully assessing this over the next six to 12 months.”

The South Korea government expects to approve its own bill on the agreement soon, enabling the trade pact to take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

The United States has free trade relations with 17 nations. It may take several months to work out the final formalities before the current agreements go into force.