The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) has hailed the passage of the long-delayed free trade agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Panama and Columbia in Congress, saying the vote will bring immediate relief to chemical manufacturers by allowing them to expand sales to these key markets.

“With tonight’s vote in the House and Senate, the U.S. is no longer sitting on the sidelines, but is actively creating opportunities for business and job growth,” said Lawrence D. Sloan, president and CEO. “Effective trade policy is highly important to the chemical manufacturing industry and has been among SOCMA’s legislative priorities since its inception. We are looking forward to a more active trade agenda, with increased engagement by the U.S. looking for additional trade partners to increase market access and provide opportunities for American manufacturers.”

Negotiated in 2007, each one of these agreements has been delayed for different reasons, further exacerbating the fragile state of the U.S. economy. In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in July, SOCMA outlined the benefits of approving the FTAs to chemical manufacturers, saying that the Columbia deal, in particular, would boost the chemical industry.

“The benefits to chemical manufacturers as a result of approving FTAs are real,” SOCMA explained in the letter. “For example, the chemical industry paid $480 million in duties to Colombia between 2008 and 2010, the most of any other exporting sector. The FTA with Colombia would eliminate 80% of these duties once the agreement becomes effective and would eliminate the rest within 10 years. Clearly, this pending FTA will bring immediate relief to chemical manufacturing companies, allowing them to expand sales to this important market.”

Similarly, the FTAs with Korea and Panama would strengthen relations and allow U.S. manufactures to compete with companies, such as those from the European Union. Korea is the seventh largest market for U.S. chemical exports; from 2008-2010, approximately $892 million in duties were paid on chemical products to the country. Duties paid to Panama for the same time period were $34 million.

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