The nation's ag groups are grateful for Congressional passage of and the President's signature on the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. At the same time, they're looking ahead encouraging the administration to continue moving forward in the area of trade.
U.S. Grains Council Chairman Wendell Shauman says the next priority for his group is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he says will take some skill on the part of the U.S. Trade Representative to get it done because of the number of countries involved. He says that anytime you have seven or eight players at the table it is difficult, but that it will be tremendously rewarding if completed.
"You've got a lot of markets there with rapidly growing economies in Southeast Asia," Shauman said. "If we get some tariff help there it will improve our opportunities there. We've been very successful with distillers dried grains; when you have growing economies with more people with middle class incomes they eat better and it'll be an opportunity for us."
According to Shauman, the Grains Council sees additional opportunities in relatively untapped markets in other areas of the world.
"India, we don't have a free trade agreement with them and there will be some tariff issues, but it's a market we need to be into," Shauman said. "It will take a while; we've been in China for 25 years before we finally got it opened up. I don't think India will take that long but India will not open up without some effort on our part and we are trying to figure out how to best approach that market. We've also just sort of stuck our toe in the water of sub-Sahara Africa, you've got some countries there that are getting more stable governments and having some better economic times. Again it's probably a long-term market, but one that we need to be looking at."
With all of the trade opportunities, Shauman says infrastructure here in the U.S. remains a challenge that needs to be addressed.
"We're going to Panama in February; they decided roughly 10 years ago that canal wasn't big enough for them that they needed bigger locks," Shauman said. "They made the decision to do it and have it done by 2014 while we're still talking. We need to get on the ball and move into the modern world."
With the right infrastructure improvements and progress on new trade agreements, Shauman says trade will work, and when trade works he says the world wins.