Officers with the Arkansas Farm Bureau recently returned from a Korean trade mission convinced that Congress should pass pending free trade agreements with that country as well as Panama and Columbia.
“All trade is based on trust and relationships,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach, a cotton, rice and soybean farmer. “Every place we went, we identified ourselves first as farmers. That was very well received. They want to talk to the people who raise the livestock and grow the crops, so they know that the agricultural products they are buying come from someone they trust."
The Korean Free Trade Agreement is one of three awaiting passage by the U.S. Congress, along with trade pacts with Panama and Columbia. State economic officials recently held a conference at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock to promote Arkansas exports to Korea, the state’s fifth largest export destination market.
“The United States has sat on the three pending trade agreements for almost four years, mostly for political reasons,” Veach said. “While we have done that, free trade agreements between other countries have been signed, and the U.S. has lost some of its competitive advantage because of that."
“The window for the United States to get an FTA agreement with Korea grows smaller each day. To miss that opportunity would be especially impactful to American agriculture,” he added.
Farm Bureau officials say that trade agreements between the U.S. and the 3 countries previously mentioned could increase Arkansas exports by $56 million and add 500 new jobs.
Arkansas did about $5.3 billion in merchandise export business in 2009, the most current year for statistics. Korea accounted for $222 million of that trade.
On July 21, the University of Central Arkansas will host an all-day conference that will explain business opportunities for state firms looking to do business in China. You can read more details here.