In response to the White House’s solicitation for written public statement on matters regarding U.S. export and trade, the U.S. Grains Council submitted a letter to the Obama administration and the President’s Export Council advising the President on matters related to agricultural exports.

In particular, the Council reiterated its support of the administration’s National Export Initiative and its aggressive goals of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years with the mission of generating 2 million U.S. jobs.

The letter also mentioned the open-ended opportunities that lie in markets in China, India and Southeast Asia where the demand for U.S. agricultural commodities continues to grow. The letter warned the President that without the swift ratification of pending free trade agreements (FTAs) between the United States and Korea, Panama and Colombia, U.S. exporters risk losing credibility among their global trading partners while competitors such as Argentina, Brazil and members of the Mercosur trading bloc, capture market share.

The pending FTA between the United States and Colombia is a particular concern to the Council.

“For several years, (the U.S. Grains Council) has worked closely with the Colombian livestock and poultry industries with numerous capacity-building efforts to help improve the efficiencies of these industries, provide them with quality U.S. coarse grain products and meet the needs of Colombia’s growing middle class to supply protein products in their diets at low costs to their consumers,” the letter read.

Losing market share

“Despite these efforts and the fact the Colombian agricultural sector supports the FTA and wants to continue this growing international trade relationship with our producers, we are losing market share.”

The letter went on to state that without expeditious ratification of the FTA, U.S. producers will cede this market to other competitors. To further illustrate the urgency of the matter, the Council said that in 2008, U.S. agricultural exports of coarse grains exceeded $635 million and accounted for an 83 percent share of total Colombian coarse grain imports. Yet in 2010, U.S. coarse grain exports declined to $118 million and market share fell to 18 percent, which is a residual supplier level.

“Without the FTA, U.S. coarse grain producers will lose this market as well as other U.S. agricultural commodities,” the letter said, adding that in addition to the Mercosur agreement with Brazil and Argentina, Colombia has signed FTAs with Canada and the European Union and has launched FTA negotiations with Korea, Panama and Singapore.

“We are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in exports, (and) thousands of U.S. jobs in a strategic market that has exceptional growth potential in our own hemisphere,” the letter said. “If we are to meet the critical objectives of the National Export Initiative, we must begin by ratifying the existing FTAs and lay the ground work on the broader trade agenda of completing the Doha Development Round and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.”