An Interview With U.S. Agriculture Secretary Schafer

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer appears on this week’s NAM radio program, “America’s Business with Mike Hambrick,” talking trade issues.

Some key excerpts:

Schafer on the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea, and his expectation that the first two will be voted on next year in Congress:

We have the votes in Congress to do so, but the leadership won’t let it on the floor to get those votes. So, that’s very disappointing. But I understand now, that come the new Congress here in January, that Colombia and Panama will be put on the floor. So I’ve been told.

Korea’s a little tougher one, that’s a very important market for us, a huge market for us, but there are some issues there that members of Congress are concerned about that they are looking into. But again, for the economic well-being of the United States of America, and for Korea, for the relationships between our countries socially and militarily, and importantly, for the opportunities for producers in both countries, Korea and the United States, that agreement should be signed.

Program host Mike Hambrick notes that other countries are still negotiating bilateral trade agreements, even as the United States sits on the sidelines and asks if that’s a concern. Schafer:

That IS a concern. Right now Colombia is building trading relationships with Australia, with Canada, who are offering competing products to ours. As you know how business works, is you develop relationships. Say we finally got around to ratifying our Colombian Free Trade Agreement a year from now, well, Colombia has already established relationships — shipping relationships, inspection relationships, company to company, banking relationships – with Canada, Australia, and now instead of being in an open free market, you’re competing to gain market share where it’s already been in place, and that’s a tougher prospect.

Secretary Schafer also talks about the threat of rising protectionist sentiment and the importance of a Doha Round of WTO negotiations.
You can listen to the full interview here. (7MB .mp3 file.)

The entire episode of “America’s Business” will be available later in the day at the program’s website and as a downloadable podcast.


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