October 13, 2011

Trade Growth Key to Idaho's Economy

Idaho Senators support new agreements with Colombia, Panama, South Korea

Washington, D.C.  - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch strongly support new free trade agreements expanding market opportunities for Idaho exporters with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.  Recent trade statistics show Idaho well above the national average in capitalizing on trade-oriented growth.  The Idaho Senators joined a bipartisan majority as the Senate approved the three agreements by overwhelming margins.  The pacts had already been approved in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Exports figures between Idaho and South Korea demonstrate the critical role trade has played in our state's economy," said Crapo, a member of the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over trade and Chairman of the Republican Capital Markets Task Force.  "Not all trade agreements have been fair, but the delay in approving these was certainly a self-inflicted wound to Idaho and the nation's economic well-being.  While the U.S. waited, our trade competitors in Europe and elsewhere have been busy eroding our market shares in these vital markets."

Risch said, "The passage of these three trade agreements was long overdue and the delay allowed foreign competitors a head start in marketing their products.  These agreements will ensure Idaho companies and products have equal access, and I am confident we can compete with anyone now that these agreements are in place."

Export and trade figures furnished by the Senate Joint Economic Committee show Idaho has surpassed the national average in benefitting from exports.  From 1997 to 2010, the figures show these export growth figures:

Colombia:          Idaho - 441 percent, U.S. growth - 132 percent

Panama:            Idaho - 176 percent, U.S. growth - 295 percent

South Korea:    Idaho - 2451 percent, U.S. growth - 55 percent

World exports:  Idaho - 210 percent, U.S. growth - 85 percent

Idaho export growth cuts across many service, manufacturing and agricultural segments.  Historic increases have come with information technology and electronic products, transportation equipment, and agricultural products and commodities.

"These three trade agreements will have a significant and real impact on Idaho grain producers, both wheat and barley", said Idaho Grain Producers Association (IGPA) President Clark Kauffman. "The IGPA has spent a lot of time advocating for their passage and we are glad our Idaho delegation never let up in their support to get them over the finish line."

"Passing these agreements is a huge victory for Idaho's cattle producers," said Idaho Cattle Association (ICA) President-Elect Richard Savage.  "The agreements have been a large priority for the ICA and will level the playing field for U.S. beef by reducing and eliminating import tariffs."

Also approved by Congress are employment assistance and retraining programs for workers who jobs are displaced due to foreign competition. Crapo and Risch said they expect in addition to the economic benefits for business, agriculture and the workplace, the agreements should lower prices for many goods and services for American consumers.  The trade agreements, originally negotiated under the Bush Administration, had been delayed for nearly three years.