The approval of pending free-trade accords with South Korea, Colombia and Panama would help create jobs in the U.S., said agricultural trader Cargill Inc., the largest closely held company in the U.S.
“Cargill absolutely supports the free-trade agreements,” Devry Boughner, director of international business relations for Cargill, said today in a telephone interview. “The sense of urgency comes around the state of the economy. Trade is about creating American jobs.”
President Barack Obama’s export advisory group recommended on Sept. 16 that the government complete work on pending accords with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Obama has laid out a goal of doubling U.S. exports to about $3.1 trillion by 2015, supporting 2 million additional jobs. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent last month.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office signed agreements with South Korea and Panama in June 2007 and with Colombia in November 2006. The accords must be sent to Congress and then to the President for approval.
“We’ve had three trade agreements that have been languishing,” Boughner said. “If we sit back while other countries are gaining access to these markets, we are tying our hands behind our back.”
Boughner said an approved agreement with South Korea would be the “most commercially meaningful” since the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Korea is a big opportunity on the food and agriculture side,” she said.
Cargill employs about 61,000 employees in the U.S. and 131,000 employees in total in 66 countries.