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US trade deals open markets – GAO

Feedstuffs | 8/12/2009

US trade deals open markets – GAO

Ian Elliott

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says bilateral free trade agreements (FTA’s) signed by the United States work. They deliver new market opportunities for America’s agriculture sector.

As critics contend, however, the trade deals appear less successful at making sure other countries meet American labor and environmental standards, the GAO says. The study released this week in Washington, DC was delivered to Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The GAO focused on existing FTA’s with Chile, Jordan, Morocco and Singapore.

"The four selected FTA’s have largely accomplished U.S. commercial objectives," GAO reports. "Overall merchandise trade between the United States and partner countries has substantially increased, generally exceeding what was experienced prior to FTA implementation. Since FTA implementation, two-way trade with the partners has shown actual increases ranging from 42% to 259%."

"Moreover, growth in U.S. exports of many leading agricultural goods—such as grains, corn, and almonds—and manufactured goods has accelerated, resulting in U.S. suppliers securing a larger share of partner country purchases from abroad. Agriculture and machinery in particular have seen widespread increases and improvements in U.S. market share."

But America’s trading partners have complaints with the trade deals, particularly over U.S. standards like sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) takes "many years" to certify imports. GAO cites the example of Moroccan tomatoes, where authorities have only published a draft regulation.

The findings are reported in the GAO study, Four Free Trade Agreements GAO Reviewed Have Resulted in Commercial Benefits, but Challenges on Labor and Environment Remain (GAO-09-439). The 148 page report is available on the GAO website.

 source: Feedstuffs