Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk responded positively to questions raised at the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) request during a hearing on the Administration’s international trade agenda held by the House Agriculture Committee.

The hearing focused on the status and outlook of free trade agreements (FTAs) concluded with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, each of which is strongly supported by ASA. Vilsack and Kirk indicated that all three FTAs will be submitted to Congress shortly, with a view to having them considered this year.

In subsequent questioning by committee members, Ambassador Kirk indicated the Administration is aware of concerns about the potential impact of the European Union’s (EU) Renewable Energy Directive (RED) on U.S. soybean exports to the EU, which totaled $1.36 billion in 2010.

Kirk stated that USTR and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials have discussed the RED’s requirements for greenhouse gas emissions reduction for biofuels, including biodiesel, and for sustainable land use certification by U.S. farmers with their counterparts in the European Commission, and that further talks are expected in the near future.

Vilsack and Kirk also responded to a question regarding the Administration’s proposed trade agency reorganization, which could combine the trade-related functions of 13 different federal agencies, including USTR and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). ASA has raised serious concerns about the impact that relocating USTR or FAS could have on the effectiveness of U.S. agricultural export promotion programs and trade negotiations. ASA had requested that the Committee raise concerns about the RED and the trade agency reorganization prior to the hearing.