U.S. soybean and wheat farmers have sent a stern warning to the Trump administration that backing out of KORUS (the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement) would have disastrous consequences for many of the nation’s farmers.
“Trade helps our country, Mr. President, and withdrawal from KORUS would hurt us all. As soybean farmers, we benefit greatly from exports, which contribute a $2 billion annual surplus to our nation’s balance of trade,” American Soybean Association President Ron Moore said. “Trade makes our local businesses and our communities stronger. Yet whether it’s South Korea, Mexico, and Canada, or our neighbors on the Pacific Rim, we once again find ourselves fighting to communicate the value of trade to farmers.
“With respect to South Korea, we supply nearly half of the 1.3 million tons of soybeans that country imports, with no tariffs as a result of the KORUS agreement. Most of Korea’s soybean imports, however, come from our competitors in Brazil and Argentina. If we withdraw, reinstatement of tariffs will make it hard to maintain our market share and will further increase our competitors’ advantage. And it would be devastating for our U.S. livestock customers who export meat products to South Korea.
“The idea that we’re the only game in town when it comes to selling soybeans or other agricultural products abroad is false. So is the notion that there’s always another country that will buy our commodities. Furthermore, even the threat to withdraw from this or any trade agreement is a dangerous course of action. Repeatedly walking our trade relationships to the brink, or actually breaking them, only weakens our standing abroad.”
U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) also urged the Trump Administration not to withdraw from KORUS.
“We believe it would be irresponsible to unilaterally walk away from this or any other trade agreement,” said Mike Miller, USW Chairman and a wheat grower from Ritzville, Washington. “Withdrawing raises the specter of retaliation against agricultural exports and creates unnecessary uncertainty in the market. Any disruption in the relationship wheat growers have built in Korea over more than 60 years gives Australia, Canada, and even Russia an opening to move in and take business away from us at a time when we are all struggling to stay profitable. KORUS, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, has been very good for American agriculture.”
Korea was the third largest volume importer of U.S. wheat in marketing year 2016/17 (June to May).
“We think this trade agreement, negotiated in good faith and strongly supported in Congress, reinforces the Administration’s stated goal to sell more agricultural products overseas,” said David Schemm, NAWG President and a wheat grower from Sharon Springs, Kansas. “We support finding ways to improve any agreement, but let’s do that in a reasoned and respectful way, with input from all stakeholders so U.S. wheat farmers can gain greater access to world markets.”