The National Chicken Council, along with 14 other groups representing food and beverage manufacturers, sent a letter yesterday to Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congress to take quick action on a variety of important trade initiatives.

The letter called for swift approval and implementation of free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, pointing out that the United States exports more than $2 billion worth of food and beverage products to these three countries and this figure would “surely grow as a result of pending FTAs with these countries.”  The agreements provide significant new market access for U.S. exports including duty-free access for many products and greatly improved tariff treatment for other products, the letter said.

The letter pointed out that the longer it takes to implement FTAs, the more is at risk in terms of losing future opportunities to increase exports and create jobs but also market share and access.  Colombia, Panama, and South Korea either have, or are pursuing, FTAs with some of the United States largest economic competitors.  An agreement between South Korea and the European Union will take effect July 1, jeopardizing $1.7 billion in U.S. food exports.  In addition, Colombia already has trade pacts with Canada and the European Union, while Panama has agreements with Canada and Chile.

The groups also urged Congress to approve long-term extensions of the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Eradication Act, and the Generalized System of Preferences.  These trade preference agreements enable U.S. companies to globally source inputs and products not readily available in the United States, helping to reduce costs for businesses and consumers.