Free trade doesn't necessarily mean fair trade, and fair trade is crucial in keeping our agricultural producers in the fold. While I support trade agreements that level the playing field in which American producers market their goods, I believe that all trade agreements must be carefully considered as to their impact on all sectors of our economy. Poorly-crafted trade agreements of the past, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have resulted in millions of jobs being moved from American soil to foreign jurisdictions with poor wages and few worker safety protections.
Given the often unintended results associated with FTAs, it remains essential that programs remain in place that offer assistance to workers who lose their jobs and firms that are driven out of business by foreign competition. Such programs like Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), renewed along with the passage of the South Korea, Colombia, and Panama FTAs in the fall of 2011, provides technical assistance to both firms and workers to help those affected by trade make strategic adjustments to improve their competitiveness in the global economy.
Today, I still have many concerns about the effects of NAFTA, CAFTA, and other free trade agreements as they often provide a raw deal for agriculture. However, I also believe a global economy is a reality and international trade can be a good thing so long as the particular trade agreement allow for trade that is fair. For example, I supported the recent FTAs with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama because of the potential economic benefits for agricultural producers and rural economies in our state. Specifically, in the case of South Korea, which went into effect on March 15, 2012, tariffs on imported agricultural goods have averaged 54%, compared to the average 9% levied by the United States. Based on the gradual phasing out of these tariffs, total U.S. agricultural export gains in the Korean market are estimated at over $1.9 billion annually, an increase of about 40% according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA ERS).
I will continue looking for ways to expand our export markets for agricultural goods, providing more opportunity for our agriculture producers. As the Senate considers trade agreements, I will continue to represent the interests of South Dakota and will promote fair trade for greater economic opportunities.