Hoeven, Senate Colleagues Call on President Obama to Submit Long-Pending Trade Agreements for Ratification

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven and eight of his senate colleagues today called on President Barack Obama to submit long-pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress as a first step in helping create private-sector jobs. 

“We want to underscore the fact that we are ready, and have been ready, to work with the President to ratify these trade agreements, which have been languishing for three years,” Hoeven said. “Combined, they hold the promise of more than $10 billion in new economic activity and more than a quarter million jobs for American farmers, ranchers, processors and manufacturers. They are way overdue, and we would like to see the President include trade in his speech tomorrow to show that he’s truly committed to private-sector job creation.”

The South Korean Free Trade Agreement alone will increase the nation’s exports to that country by more than $10 billion and create 280,000 American jobs, according to the Congressional Research Service. South Korea has a $1 trillion economy and 49 million consumers. It’s the 15th largest economy in the world and the United States’ 7th largest trading partner. The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement will eliminate or reduce more than 85 percent of the tariffs between the United States and Korea, including the eventual elimination of a 40 percent Korean tariff on American beef, which Hoeven said will benefit North Dakota. 

The Senator has been working for ratification of the agreements, which would greatly benefit North Dakota farmers, ranchers, beef processors and manufacturers, like Caterpillar. He and U.S. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met earlier this year in Seoul with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and prominent Korean business leaders to advance the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. Hoeven also delivered the national Republican Radio Address in June pushing for passage of the three measures. 

The Senator also met this summer with U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk to expedite the agreement and determine if there was anything more the Administration needed to move the three agreements forward.

That meeting followed a letter sent to President Barack Obama by Hoeven and 11 Republican senators urging the Administration to forward the agreements to the U.S. Congress for approval. In the letter, the senators agreed to support a reformed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill in exchange for the President’s agreeing to forward the trade agreements separately. 

Hoeven said the TAA bill now reflects bipartisan reforms negotiated by the White House as well as U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). This commitment should provide enough votes to ensure the reformed TAA bill can pass the Senate. 

In addition to Senator Hoeven, also participating in the news conference at the U.S. Capitol were Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; and Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

Trade Press Conference