Despite the fact that this was good news for American workers, the real celebration over passage of the trade pacts was in South Korea, Colombia and Panama, the nations with whom we entered into these agreements.
Recently, I traveled to Colombia to meet with leaders in government and business to discuss how we can sell more Alabama agricultural products. As a result, we established positive relationships with key Colombian business and government trade interests that in time may well pay dividends for Alabama.
In advance of my trip, I was heartened to learn how excited the Colombian people are about their newly elevated relationship with America. It’s not that we have established a level playing field upon which to base long-term trade relations. It’s that Colombians now enjoy a coveted “special” status with their neighbor to the north.
Frankly, from our perspective, American agriculture has everything to gain and little to lose from free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Their expanding economies now afford them the capability to purchase large quantities of American beef and poultry, two commodities known worldwide for their superior quality and flavor.
Through our Port of Mobile, Alabama poultry producers can now ship frozen broilers to foreign markets in a matter of days. This is but one advantage Alabama has in the arena of world trade.
Our forest products, especially treated Alabama pine lumber and Alabama telephone poles, are most popular in Latin America. Moreover, across the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Caribbean Basin, we have an incredible opportunity for building trade for Alabama agricultural products.
Colombia presents us with a unique challenge to establish good relations under an ideal tariff structure combined with more than a modicum of good will.
As we reach out to our friends across the Gulf of Mexico, let’s consider how we build trade relationships for the long-term to provide lasting markets for our fine Alabama agricultural products. With the right strategies in place, we can make a tremendous difference in the economic future for all Alabamians.
John McMillan is commissioner of Alabama’s Department of Agriculture and Industries.