The pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia are moving toward the five year mark since being signed and continue to languish, waiting to be sent to Congress for ratification. Frustration is the word wheat producers, commodity groups and even overseas customers of the United States are using to describe still-stalled free trade agreements.U.S. Wheat Associates Director of Policy Shannon Schlecht says he shares that same sentiment.
"I'm frustrated that we're still waiting on these agreements," Schlecht said. "I mean we had a two year head start on Canada with the signing of ours in 2006 versus Canada in 2008, and we've always been playing catch-up to the MERCOSUR countries."
Schlecht says there are several reasons the agreements aren't signed. But he says the biggest, most egregious point that has stopped the agreements is political.
"The Trade Adjustment Assistance is the one thing, the political process of moving the TAA along together with the FTAs," Schlecht said. "That has been the stumbling block here recently to try to bring these forward and just how that will happen among the Administration, among members of Congress."
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said that a vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance is expected before Congress considers the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
Schlecht does have hope that lawmakers understand the importance of the pending trade deals and that there will be movement when Congress returns from the August break.
"I think there are definitely some who get it," Schlecht said. "If we keep pushing on the economic importance of the jobs that can be created, of the trade surplus that agriculture gives back to the U.S. economy and rural America. We keep pushing those messages and hopefully the logjam will break and these will move forward."