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Local farmers see hope in Bush China trade decision

Monday, December 31, 2001

Local farmers hope to see an expanded export market for their commodities after President Bush granted normal trade status to China last week. The new trade status takes effect today.

"It may not open the gates right away to a lot of trade, but it sounds like down the road more opportunities will become available," said Steve Jorgensen, president of the Buena Vista County Farm Bureau. "Our future in farming is exports and anything we can do to enhance those is a good deal for farmers."

Congress granted the permanent trading status to China last year contingent upon its entry into the World Trade Organization. China's application was formally accepted at the WTO's annual meeting last month in the United Arab Emirates.

Bush called the trade proclamation the "final step in normalizing U.S.-China trade relations," in a statement, and said it would open up vast Chinese markets to billions of dollars in American goods.

Farm organizations are applauding the move, saying normal trade status will open up export markets for U.S. and Iowa agriculture products.

Jorgensen said granting China permanent normal trading relations with the United States has been underway for a long time. "Now that it's done, I think that's a really good deal for farmers," he said. "Any exports that we get has to improve our price situation.

"I would expect pork exports to do well in China, and it has got to help on corn and soybeans," he added.

He noted the U.S. does compete with other countries, such as Brazil, on corn and soybean exports, but added that "any exports have to be promising for farmers."

Along with normal trade status with China, President Bush is seeking Trade Promotion Authority from Congress. The House of Representatives has passed the legislation to give the President ability to negotiate trade agreements.

The White House says there are more than 130 free trade agreements in the world, while the United States is party to only three.

Jorgensen said Trade Promotion Authority is needed for the President.

"We really need to provide the President with Trade Promotion Authority," he said. "It allows for fast action on setting up trade deals."

Congressman Tom Latham has long supported Trade Promotion Authority. Before the House vote this month, he met with the Iowa Farm Bureau's new president, Craig Lang of Brooklyn, and the new vice-president, Craig Hill of Milo.

U.S. Trade Promotion Authority is the trade negotiating authority that has been an integral part of U.S. trade policy since it was first granted in 1974, Latham said.

"Giving this authorization to the President is critical for Iowa's farmers," he said. "It will provide for the continued pursuit of tearing down trade barriers to open market access for Iowa farmers around the globe."

Also, on Thursday, Jan. 10, Emily Eide, director of national affairs for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, will discuss the World Trade Organization, farm policy and farm programs at the annual Ag Expo in Storm Lake.

With reports from the Associated Press.

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