Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a letter to President Obama, pressed for action on three pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Grassley said he was encouraged to hear the positive remarks in last week's State of the Union speech, but hopes the President's actions meet his rhetoric.
Grassley, who is the ranking member on the Senate Financial Committee, wrote, "The rest of the world is moving forward, at the expense of America's workforce. It's time for the United States to get off the sidelines and start making international trade a priority." Grassley noted that the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, once fully implemented could provide $910 million in gains each year for U.S. agriculture, and the potential benefits for Korea could be $1.6 billion for agriculture.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.,has a beef with the South Korean trade deal. Baucus, whose committee oversees trade issues, has not said whether he will merely vote against the agreement or will use the full force of his authority as finance chairman to block it indefinitely. The senator said he is working behind the scenes with U.S. trade officials to tweak the agreement to ensure Montana ranchers get a better deal.
Seoul's negotiators have indicated they will give no more ground beyond a 2008 concession to allow imports of beef from U.S. cattle that are less than 30 months old. U.S. beef exports have been rising sharply since 2008, and the exclusion for older beef covers only a small portion of the potential exports.