President Trump signed an updated United States-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement this week. The agreement known as KORUS was agreed to in principle back in March. While the agreement settles some problems with automobile trade, the President says agriculture benefits too.
“I think our farmers are going to be extremely happy,” the President said this week. “It was very limited as to what they could do and what they could send, and now it’s a open market.”
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue wants to “put this one in the bag and keep hunting for more,” and he is optimistic “the dominoes will continue to fall,” referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement, and new agreements with the European Union, Japan and even China.
USDA Under Secretary for Trade Ted McKinney hopes KORUS will lead to improved U.S. sales, and “I also hope out of KORUS comes some ease of product in and out of the ports, because those ports can be boogers. So, let’s hope that some of the negotiations that settle KORUS will help your products get in and out of Korea.”
The new KORUS agreement is a “better deal for the entire United States economy, including the agricultural sector,” Sonny Perdue said. The White House says the agreement is a sign that President Trump has “fulfilled his promise” to fight for American workers and businesses in an amended trade deal with South Korea.
Additionally, USDA says new and expanded markets are part of the answer to replacing lost farm sales to China as trade issues continue with that country.
McKinney told Senate Ag lawmakers a recent trade mission broke records and the trend is continuing.
“The visit to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador set the all-time record high in sales of ag sales from across the U.S. in the history of the Foreign Ag Service.”
Some existing markets like South Korea have paid extra dividends, but others are a challenge.
“Beef and pork for example in South Korea after the KORUS agreement has been at record levels,” McKinney said. “For sure some will be long and arduous. I cite India, a great country and one we must invest in. But, I think for a while they’re going to be very difficult with a tendency to throw tariffs up, as are many others.”
NAFTA talks continue this week between the U.S. and Canada, as the U.S. hopes to bring Canada into a new three-way agreement with the U.S. and Mexico. Canada’s dairy supply system and tariffs remain a key sticking point, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has reportedly said that there is still “an amount of distance” between the two countries.
Sources: NAFB News and USDA