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Words From Washington

House blow to fair trade hurts Washington state farmers

With one out of every three jobs in Washington state tied to trade, Washingtonians understand the importance of expanding and improving fair trade deals for our farmers and businesses in order to create jobs and grow our economy.

The pending fair trade agreement with Colombia is the perfect example of a deal that is in the best interest of our state: immediately upon enactment, Colombian tariffs will be eliminated on Washington state apples, pears, cherries, potatoes, beef, wheat and other products. This will give our farmers the same fair, open, tariff-free access to Colombia that Colombian farmers already have to our market.

Unfortunately, House Democrats followed Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an unprecedented move to wipe out a long-standing requirement in American trade law that Congress vote within 90 days on trade agreements. Representatives and senators are elected by the American people to vote - and Congress should do its job and vote on this trade agreement. What the House did instead was vote to indefinitely postpone and hide from voting on the agreement. If Speaker Pelosi is going to change the rules in the middle of the game, how can the United States expect other countries to trust our trade ambassadors at the negotiating table?

Many products from Colombia have enjoyed open and duty-free access into American markets since 1991, due to the one-way trade concessions bill known as the Andean Trade Preferences Act. By refusing to hold a vote on this important trade agreement with Colombia, Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat majority are voting to maintain this one-way trade policy that gives Colombians free access to the U.S. but imposes high tariffs on Americans. At a time when Congress is considering ways to grow the economy and create jobs, slamming the door on this agreement defies common sense and penalizes American farmers and workers.

Agriculture is the number one industry in Washington state, and Colombia is the second largest Latin American market for U.S. farm goods, so it is not surprising that the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement has broad support from many in the agricultural business community, including the Washington State Farm Bureau, the Northwest Horticultural Council, the Washington State Potato Commission, the U.S. Apple Association, Microsoft, Boeing, the National Potato Council, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Cattleman's Beef Association.

Our farm based economy depends on lowering unfair trade barriers and expanding market access. Opening up new markets for Central Washington farmers is simply one of the most important steps we can take to ensure long-term economic growth in our local communities.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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