The Washington potato industry and its workforce have the potential to maintain a competitive edge with foreign competition from four pending Free Trade Agreements with Panama, Columbia, Peru and Korea.
"These four agreements will present a great opportunity for the growth of our Washington State potato industry," says Matt Harris, Washing State Potato Commission trade director.
"Each agreement gives the U.S. potato industry significant reductions in tariffs on frozen, fresh and dehydrated potatoes."
Congressional action on Peru and Panama could happen by the end of November, he speculates, while the Columbian and Korean agreements are caught up in additional issues and may take longer to negotiate.
The most significant of the four agreements is with Korea, the fifth largest destination for U.S. frozen potato exports, which generated $23 million in sales last year. Ratification of the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement would immediately eliminate an 18% tariff that these products face entering that nation.
KORUS free trade agreement will make U.S. potatoes more competitive and save the potato processing industry more than $ million a year in tariffs, Harris estimates.
Turning up the heat are current trade negotiations between Korea and Canada, which is aggressively seeking its own free trade pact with Korea. If successful, that effort could interrupt established sales of frozen french fries from Washington state.
"Last year U.S. frozen potato exports amounted to 81% of the total Korean demand, and without passage of KORUS, the U.S. potato industry could lose its entire market share to Canada," Harris explains. "These four pending FTA's would help he potato industry significantly by fueling Washington State's economy by being competitive with other potato exporting countries such as Canada, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand."