WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-Or), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and Congressman Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), the Committee's Ranking Member, today pledged continued support of International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance for Asia to aid countries affected by the Asian financial crisis and lessen the potentially devastating impact on America's farmers and ranchers.
Today, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman appeared before the House Agriculture Committee to discuss the need to protect U.S. economic interests, particularly the agricultural industry, in the face of Asia's current financial crisis. This was the second hearing held by the Committee regarding IMF.
"United States farmers and ranchers and our agriculture markets are dependent upon export markets around the world. The United States must protect its economic interests, particularly its share of the agricultural market in Asia," Smith said.
"USDA was able to approve $2.5 billion of GSM export credit guarantees for South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia to help maintain the U.S. share of that market only because of the reforms required by the IMF in those countries affected by the Asian financial crisis. A loss of Asian markets, which account for 12 percent of the U.S. agriculture export market, would have a devastating effect on U.S. farmers and ranchers," Smith said.
IMF-required reforms include the elimination of all trade-related subsidies and adoption of international, science-based measures on pesticide residue levels in Korea, the potential elimination of tariffs and tariff rate quotas in Thailand, and a limit on the import and distribution monopoly to rice and the allowance of private entities to import wheat, flour, soybeans, and garlic in Indonesia.
"A prosperous Asia is vital to the farmers and ranchers of the Pacific Northwest. In 1997 alone, Oregon exported more than $3 billion worth of agricultural goods, primarily to Asian countries. This Committee will not stand idly by and watch while America's farmers and ranchers lose their key export markets. I support IMF funding to break down foreign trade barriers and maintain agricultural exports," Smith added after the hearing.
Chairman Smith also received a letter today from over 70 agriculture industry groups offering their support of IMF assistance and calling on members of the Agriculture Committee to continue working toward the enactment of other market opening legislation such as fast track authority.
"As a result of the Asian crisis, the IMF's financial resources are at historically low levels, limiting the Fund's ability to respond if the crisis spreads," said Charlie Stenholm, the committee's ranking minority member. "It is worth noting that, for those countries receiving aid, the IMF has reached agreements which will liberalize trade to the benefit of US agriculture."
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives - which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.