Two critical industry issues, open trade and comprehensive immigration reform, took center stage during the Society of American Florist’s (SAF) 28th annual Congressional Action Days, which took place Feb. 25 and 26. SAF members met in 166 legislative offices on Capitol Hill during those two jam-packed days to raise awareness and generate support for industry concerns.
Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez talked to attendees about the open trade and immigration, reports SAF. During the conversation, Gutierrez acknowledged the somewhat “controversial” nature of the pending free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia, given that Colombian flower growers compete with U.S. flower growers.
However, Gutierrez emphasized the overall benefits of the FTA agreement with Colombia, pointing out that while Colombian exporters have had duty-free access to the U.S. market for more than 15 years through the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), U.S. exporters have had to pay duties on the products they ship to that country. The free trade agreement “levels the playing field,” Gutierrez said.
“A decade ago, Colombia was on the verge of becoming a failed state…fighting Marxist guerrillas, a country under siege,” he states in an SAF press release. “It doesn’t make sense that we would put at risk what they’ve achieved [by not approving the free trade agreement]…especially a country that has an impact on our society, with the drugs that are produced there and exported to the U.S.”
According to Gutierrez, the 15 trade agreements in place in the European Union, and the five pending agreements in Canada are “all the more reason to push for free trade with Colombia.”
The secretary also spoke in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, “What we’re beginning to see in some parts of the country is that businesses are moving overseas where they can find labor,” he said. “We don’t want to see that. We need to be conscious about the overall strategy that we’re putting in place.”
Gutierrez also recognized SAF’s leadership on immigration reform and specifically cited SAF’s role in lobbying for the swift enactment of AgJOBS, according to the press release.