Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement about the U.S/Korea Free Trade Agreement, which became operational on March, 15.
"Today is a monumental day for American farmers and ranchers. Under the new U.S./Korea trade agreement, two-thirds of the tariffs imposed on U.S. food and agricultural products exported to South Korea are being eliminated. Over the next few years, as additional barriers fall and more U.S. businesses market products to Korea's expanding economy, American agricultural exports should grow by $1.9 billion and help support nearly 16,000 jobs here at home. The trade agreement with Korea is the most significant for the United States in decades. Now the world's twelfth largest economy, with a GDP of over $1.4 trillion and a population of about 49 million, Korea is already the fifth largest export market for U.S. farm products.
"For America's farmers, ranchers, and agricultural businesses the timing could not be better. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity and resourcefulness of American farmers and agribusinesses.
"Much of the record growth these past few years is related to President Obama's leadership on trade. Last year, (Obama) insisted that we get this agreement with Korea right -- alongside pacts with Colombia and Panama -- forging a better deal for America's workers and businesses that led to strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. In 2010, President Obama committed to double U.S. exports in five years. Two years later, we are on pace to meet that goal. Recent figures show the number of jobs supported by American exports have grown 1.2 million since 2009, while total U.S. exports hit a record $2.1 trillion last year, up 34 percent from 2009.
"Strengthening our partnership with growing markets in the Asia Pacific region, such as South Korea, is integral to the strength of the U.S. economy in the decades ahead. Along with other efforts to promote American exports, the trade deal with South Korea helps level the playing field for American businesses and will help put folks back to work. Across the economy, it will add $10 billion to $12 billion to annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Increased exports mean higher incomes for farmers and ranchers, more opportunities for small businesses owners, and jobs for people in rural communities and port cities—the people who grow, package, ship and market American agricultural products."