Date: Jul 01, 2010

New markets are critical to the success of specialty crop producers; outstanding trade conflicts must be addressed

IRVINE (July 1, 2010) - The specialty crop industry was very pleased with the commitment made by the President Barack Obama at last week's G-20 accord to work with Korean President Lee Myung-bak to address outstanding concerns with the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Obama has indicated that these issues should be resolved by November of this year.

"I am encouraged by the President's commitment to secure passage of the free trade agreement with South Korea,” said Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif. “Korea presents huge export opportunities for Arizona and California vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts. We urge the president and the U.S. trade representative to build upon the agricultural market openings already achieved in the text of the U.S.-Korea FTA."

The FTA with South Korea is the most important and commercially significant free trade agreement being negotiated outside of the Western hemisphere and could provide considerable benefits for specialty crop farmers. South Korea, the fifteenth largest economy in the world, is a significant market for U.S. agriculture, importing $18.9 billion in agricultural products in 2008 — $5.57 billion from the United States. Included therein is $109 million in fresh citrus and $40 million in tree nuts.

As the G-20 Accord concluded, Nassif traveled to Washington, D.C. this week, where he met with Ambassador, Chief U.S. Agriculture Negotiator Isi Siddiqui, and asked the Administration to resolve the Korean and other outstanding trade conflicts.

"While access to new markets is essential to the success of specialty crop producers, we urge the president to quickly resolve the ongoing trade dispute with Mexico as well,” Nassif said. Western Growers efforts on the FTA with South Korea and Mexico provide a basis to continue the endeavor to obtain worldwide duty free treatment for fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables.

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship ninety percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and seventy five percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce.

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