American Soybean Association (ASA) President Mark Berg today expressed the full support of U.S. soybean producers for renewing the Administration’s Fast Track negotiating authority for future trade agreements. “One of ASA’s top priorities is to gain greater access to foreign markets,” Berg stated during a press conference at the National Press Club. “This cannot happen without renewal of Fast Track authority.””Fully 50 percent of every soybean crop produced in this country is exported as whole soybeans, as protein meal and vegetable oil, or in the form of poultry and pork products,” the ASA President continued. “As world food needs double over the next 30 years, U.S. soybean producers are prepared to supply this increased demand — provided we have access to these growing markets.”In granting Fast Track authority, Congress agrees in advance to consider trade agreements submitted by the Administration in their entirety, and without amendments. Other countries insist the U.S. operate on this Fast Track basis so that final agreements are not “renegotiated” by the U.S. Congress. Every significant trade agreement concluded in recent years has been negotiated under Fast Track authority.Berg, a soybean and corn farmer from Tripp, South Dakota, stated that “past trade agreements have been good for the U.S. soybean industry. Under NAFTA, sales of U.S. soybeans and soybean products soared from $474 million in 1993 to $869 million in 1996 – an increase of 83 percent.” The ASA President added that “expanding NAFTA offers potential to tap other markets in Latin America.”According to Berg, “for ASA, the Uruguay Round did not go far enough in liberalizing trade in the oilseed sector.” Among the deficiencies, Berg pointed out that “U.S. competitors are still allowed to indirectly subsidize vegetable oil and soybean meal exports,” and “import tariffs in countries with major market potential have not been adequately reduced.” Berg stated that “our industry supports complete elimination of all export incentives and import tariffs to create a global level playing for oilseed trade.”Another issue cited by the ASA President as a priority for future negotiations is trade in products of plant biotechnology. “In the past two years, U.S. farmers have become aware of both the benefits of new biotech soybean varieties and the challenges these crops face in gaining approval in some countries,” Berg said. “The development of global standards for biotech products in international trade must be a key objective of the next round of negotiations under the World Trade Organization.”The ASA President emphasized that “none of these trade priorities can be developed without renewal of Fast Track authority.”Soybeans accounted for 24% of all U.S. crop acres planted in 1996, and U.S. production represented 49 percent of the world’s soybean supply. U.S. soybeans had a farmgate value of more than $16.9 billion last year, while the value of U.S. soybean and soy product exports exceeded $9.1 billion. This made soybeans the highest value U.S. farm export in 1996.