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Trade agreements may create jobs

SAVANNAH -- The nation's ambassador for trade says that the Obama administration's push for three new free-trade agreements is one that is meant to spark new jobs and open up markets that will benefit Georgia industries.

Ambassador Demetrious Marantis is the deputy United States trade representative. He is responsible for leading USTR global initiatives on trade and development, labor and the environment.

While touring the Savannah Port this week, Marantis pitched three new free trade agreements currently pending before Congress that would open markets in South Korea, Colombia and Panama to U.S. manufacturers and growers.

"These agreements have a huge potential for U.S. companies, especially in places like South Korea where some industries have seen a 26 percent tariff on goods," Marantis said.

One of those industries -- poultry -- is huge for Georgia. Currently, Georgia is the nation's top exporter of broilers and opening up the South Korean market could mean hundreds of millions in new revenue for poultry producers.

Marantis spoke of other industrial sectors that will benefit, including ones that have a big impact here in Albany.

"Take chemical production for instance," he said. "The agreements will reduce the tariffs on chemicals to zero in five years, which could mean a lot for your chemical companies in Albany like Equinox and Sasco."

Marc Skalla, president of Sasco Chemical Group in Albany, said Tuesday that the trade agreements should make the company much more appealing to South American markets, where its been "locked out" because of tariffs.

"Free trade is a necessity for U.S. manufacturers to compete in foreign markets," Skalla wrote to the Herald. "We have been locked out of many markets in South America due to tariffs placed on our products. Free trade in Panama and Colombia will mean new business opportunities for SASCO and most manufacturers in the U.S."

Marantis hopes and believes those business opportunities will turn into jobs.

"These agreements are a fast way to put people to work at a time when people need jobs the most," he said.