The American Meat Institute has called for swift action by the U.S. Congress in approving the free trade agreement now being considered for passage by the U.S. Congress.

“The future prosperity, growth and sustainability of America’s meat and poultry sector is invariably linked to the success we have in expanding our markets abroad,” said AMI President and Chief Executive Officer J. Patrick Boyle in submitted testimony to the United States House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. “Time is of the essence, because our competitors are moving quickly to gain market access and consumer loyalty to many of the most lucrative export markets.”

Boyle noted that in 2010, AMI worked closely with the National Pork Producers Council, Iowa State University, U.S. Meat Export Federation and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council to derive estimates on the impact of full implementation of these three FTAs on U.S. exports and job creation.  Results of the impact study found that passage of FTAs currently pending — with South Korea, Colombia and Panama —would represent an additional $2.3 billion in exports and the creation of 29,524 new jobs.

“These three FTAs are the low hanging fruit on the tree, offering a relatively easy growth opportunity that is within our grasp to implement and start realizing benefits immediately,”  Boyle told the Committee.

Boyle pointed to the recent progress made on the FTA with Korea as a sign of what can be accomplished with perseverance, noting that it is estimated that this agreement, when passed, would result in an additional 11,000 jobs for the pork industry, 17,000 jobs for the beef industry and 8,500 jobs for the poultry industry.

Boyle warned, however, that as this agreement and others await Congressional approval, competitors are taking advantage.

“In the economic times in which we find ourselves, when opportunity knocks, if you do not open your door before your competitor does, then you will miss an opportunity,” Boyle said.  

“Hopefully, Congress will be able to push past the political barriers that have blocked passage of these agreements in the past and demonstrate that our leaders in Washington have enough faith in the determination and ingenuity of the American people to allow us the opportunity to compete fairly in these highly sought after global markets. If Congress fails to do so, American agriculture will lose these opportunities to our competitors in other countries,” Boyle concluded.