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Goehring urges quick approval of U.S. and Korea trade pact

BISMARCK - Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has urged the Administration to push for quick ratification of the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, saying that opening the Korean market is crucial to North Dakota's agriculture industry and economy.

"Approval of the Korean Free Trade Agreement would cause almost two-thirds of the U.S. farm products exported to Korea to become duty free immediately," Goehring said. "Eliminating the extremely high tariffs on food and agriculture products makes these products more affordable to Korean consumers while offering economic stability in the Korean market for our producers here in North Dakota."

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Goehring said the proposed agreement would specifically benefit North Dakota by lifting the duties on wheat, barley, food-use soybeans, corn for feed and fresh potatoes. As the treaty would be gradually implemented, the duties would drop for dairy products, beef muscle meats, soybean oil, flaxseed, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, peas, beans and other legumes.

The U.S. and South Korea signed the trade agreement in 2007. If ratified by Congress, it would be the United States' most commercially significant free trade agreement in more than 16 years. South Korea is the United States' eighth largest goods trading partner and the fifth largest export market for U.S. farm products.

Goehring cited 2007 figures placing U.S. agriculture exports to all countries at an estimated $2.5 billion and supporting some 26.5 million jobs.

"The trade agreement will only increase these numbers for North Dakota by allowing our producers and exporters to dramatically expand their exports to Korea and keep our agriculture industry strong," he said.

Approval of the treaty would also have political and diplomatic consequences, according to Goehring.

"By committing to this agreement with the Republic of Korea, a longstanding and close ally, we reinforce the positive political association between our countries as we work together in furthering peace and well-being in Northeast Asia," he said.

Goehring recently met with South Korean officials in Seoul on behalf of the North Dakota Trade Office.