Hoeven: Free Trade Agreement Opens Doors in Colombia For North Dakota Businesses

Senator Worked to Pass U.S.-Colombian, South Korean, Panamanian Trade Agreements

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today joined the U.S. Commercial Service, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and industry leaders to kick off planning for a fall 2012 trade mission to Colombia. Hoeven said the catalyst for the mission, a new free trade agreement with Colombia he worked to help pass in Congress, will create valuable opportunities for North Dakota agricultural machinery and aviation manufacturers, as well as North Dakota food companies.

The U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement eliminated duties on 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia and represents an increase of $1.1 billion in U.S. trade, a nearly 14 percent increase. Machinery and equipment is expected to be one of the largest export sectors by value for U.S. companies. Total North Dakota exports to Colombia grew by more than 300 percent between 1997 and 2010, and are expected to accelerate with passage of the new trade agreement. 

The senator pushed last year for approval of three separate agreements: the U.S.-Colombian, U.S.-Panamanian and U.S.-South Korean trade agreements, all of which had been stalled for more than four years and were finally approved in October. He worked with congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the Administration to bring the agreements to the floor of the U.S. Senate for approval. As part of that effort he helped to forge a bipartisan agreement on a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill, which cleared the way for the Administration to send the agreements to Congress. 

He also worked with U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk to move the legislation forward and delivered the national Republican Radio Address to urge support for the three measures. The U.S. Senate passed the measures with bipartisan support in October and President Obama signed them shortly after. 

The three trade agreements combined represent more than $13 billion in increased economic activity for U.S. manufacturers, farmers and ranchers. The U.S.-Panamanian agreement eliminated 87 percent of the tariffs on U.S. consumer and industrial products such as heavy equipment, which will benefit U.S. and North Dakota heavy equipment manufacturers as Panama completes a $5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. 

The largest of the three pacts, the South Korean Free Trade Agreement, alone is estimated to increase the nation’s exports to that country by more than $10 billion and create up to 280,000 American jobs. It would also phase out a 40 percent Korean tariff on American beef over 10 years, directly benefiting North Dakota ranchers.