DELMARVA - With a series of trade negotiations underway between the United States and 12 other countries, known as the "Trans-Pacific Partnership" agreement, local lawmakers have their eyes on some big exporting opportunities.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and office of the United States Trade Representative, U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both of Delaware, including other lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia, are urging them to push for open markets and fair trade of U.S. chicken products during these negotiations.
"Even in a very divided congress, even at a time where we have time agreeing that it's Monday when it's Monday, democrats and republicans can come together to support chicken exports," says Senator Coons.
Currently, the Delmarva poultry industry provides more than 15,000 jobs and more than $4.5 billion for the local economy, but there is room for improvement. Only about 20 percent of the meat on Delmarva is exported, mainly due to strict trade restrictions in other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
"We're not exporting as much as we could be now," says Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. "Unfortunately we don't have Japan, we don't have Korea, we don't have Canada. Canada would be a great export market for Delmarva because we are the closest major producing area to the population centers of Canada, which are the provinces of Ontario and Quebec."
Senator Coons, among other lawmakers argues that open markets and fair trade for chicken is critical to Delmarva's poultry industry.
"The chicken industry has really been at some risk," says Senator Coons. "The way to keep is strong is to have access to growing markets elsewhere in the world."
While Satterfield does not feel that exports could necessarily make or break the industry, Senator Coons feels that it is essential to take action now, before the rest of the world catches up.
"Sooner or later we will be facing competition here in the United States as we have in so many other industries," says Senator Coons. "We want them to eat more delicious Delmarva chicken."
Senator Coons says that some people often show concern about free trade agreements, mainly because they feel that their jobs are at risk. To prevent that, lawmakers are specifically asking for "fair" trade.
"Not every trade agreement that we have entered into has been positive for the United States, so if we're going to open up America's markets any further to competitors, then we have to fight for and insist on better access to their markets," says Senator Coons. "In some past trade deals, we ended up exporting more jobs than products. That's not fair."
To view the letter sent by Senator Coons and other lawmakers, click here.
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