By Curtis W. Ellis & Marilynn Momber
Pending free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama are bad for
Michigan farmers and must be rejected if we are to preserve our way of
All three trade treaties are based on NAFTA-style policies which have
displaced American farmers while sending jobs that support Michigans
rural communities offshore. In fact, our leading export is jobs even as we
reward companies that outsource jobs. Since NAFTA took effect, the United
States has lost 300,000 farms and millions of jobs.
Major commodity groups and agribusiness organizations have been beating
the drum for passage of these free trade agreements (FTAs). They make
dubious claims that there will be massive export gains for farm products
as a result of these FTAs.
The American Farm Bureau Federation Farm has released a study that
estimates the Korea FTA would result in $1.65 billion in additional U.S.
agricultural sales - but the Farm Bureaus figures only look at gross
exports while never including expanded imports. Net trade is what
The Farm Bureaus fuzzy math also arbitrarily assumes an automatic 10%
increase (a figure pulled out of thin air) for U.S. market share in Korea
for every American agricultural sector, despite a finding from the U.S.
International Trade Commission (USITC) that says corn, soybeans and wheat
would be net losers, and rice is not even covered in the Korea FTA. The
USITC projects many American agricultural sectors would face a worsening
trade balance were the free trade agreement to be implemented. This is a
very serious manipulation.
Loopholes in the FTAs rules-of-origin promote leakage, so countries such
as China and Vietnam are allowed to gain at our expense.
Since only 35% of a products value must be added in Korea, there is a
major trans-shipment risk from China in processed foods. Chinese apples
have already decimated the Michigan apple industry and we should not be
allowing food processed in the U.S. or Korea but grown elsewhere to get
free trade benefits such as the duty-free access provided by the deal.
Michigan cattle and beef producers will also be harmed by these free trade
acts. The U.S. has NAFTA-style trade deals with 17 other nations, and our
cumulative trade deficit in cattle and beef is twice as high with these 17
countries as it is with the rest of the world. Over the past 30 years,
more than half a million beef ranchers have left the industry as large
meatpackers have reaped the benefits of these flawed trade agreements.
Under the proposed deal, Korea could import cattle from China (the worlds
third-largest cattle herd) and get preferred treatment to ship that beef
to the U.S. Adding insult to injury, South Korea bans imports of our beef
from cattle over 30 months old due to fears of mad cow disease. Colombia,
a major beef producer, would also be able to trans-ship from Brazil, a
gargantuan beef producer whose imports would harm our cattle industry.
All three free trade acts have weak rules on labor standards and food
safety and inspection which put Michigan farmers at a disadvantage. A
Michigan cherry grower has to adhere to labor, environmental, pesticide
and chemical usage standards that their counterparts overseas dont face.
Finally, all three acts weaken American sovereignty. Foreign investors
and foreign corporations would be able to challenge state and federal laws
before unelected, unaccountable international tribunals such as the World
Bank and United Nations. The American taxpayer would have no rights of
due process, and wed be on the hook to pay compensation for claimed trade
We see how this works with the recent World Trade Organization ruling
striking down U.S. country of origin labeling law. That law approved by
the U.S. Congress lets consumers know where the food they eat is grown.
The Canadian and Mexican governments challenged it, saying it gives food
grown in the U.S.A. an unfair advantage over imports. If the ruling
stands, the will of the American people will be nullified by anonymous
bureaucrats in Geneva, and American citizens could be asked to pay
damages to foreign agribusinesses hurt by our country-of-origin laws.
Michigans 4th congressional district contains more farms than any other
district in the state. We urge Congressman Dave Camp to reject these badly
flawed trade deals. Michigans farmers and working families deserve fair
trade and a fair shake, not the continued attack on our way of life that
these pacts represent.
Curtis W. Ellis is the executive director of the American Jobs Alliance
http://www.americanjobsalliance.com/ Marilynn Momber is president of
Michigan Farmers Union http://www.nfu.org/