What is in this article?:
- Congress close to Colombia, Panama trade deals
- Panama/South Korea
- To facilitate U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) deal, Colombia agrees to "action plan" to protect worker rights.
- Colombia, the third-largest economy in South America, imported some $12 billion of U.S. goods in 2010.
- A U.S./Colombia FTA is expected to add an additional $1 billion annually to U.S. exports.
As for the Panama FTA, over the last several weeks, the United States reached agreement with the nation “about actions they agreed to take in both labor and tax” provisions, said Froman. As of Tuesday, “those labor provisions are now law in Panama and they’ve submitted the tax information exchange agreement to their congress for ratification, which we expect to happen in the coming days.”
Struck in early March, a U.S./South Korea FTA is also awaiting further action.
Kirk discounted any claim that U.S. jobs would be threatened by a Colombia FTA. “We can make an honest case that because Columbia has been a part of our preference program through the Andean Trade Preferences Act” -- enacted in December 1991, the act aims to assist Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru in a shift from drug production to economic alternatives -– “the impact (of a FTA) on American jobs should be accretive and positive.”
Because Congress has historically supported extended preference to Colombia “as a way of helping them move people from, frankly, trafficking in drugs to farming and other (employment), we have the unique circumstance where most of what is sold in the United States from Colombia comes in duty-free. So, this FTA is (the United States’) opportunity to bring Colombia’s tariffs down. … This should be no threat to American jobs since goods from Colombia already come into the United States duty-free.”
The National Corn Growers Association is among those enthusiastic about the trade deal. In a statement, the NCGA claimed the FTA would provide immediate access for U.S. corn growers to Colombia’s roughly 2.1 million metric ton market for corn at zero percent duty.
“Colombia has traditionally been one of the top ten export markets for U.S. corn,” said Bart Schott, NCGApresident – who also endorsed the Panama and South Korea deals. “This is an important market for U.S. farmers and we do not want to watch this market slip away to our largest competitors. America’s corn producers stand ready to produce enough corn to meet the increasing global demands for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”
The American Soybean Association was equally “pleased that agreement has been reached on labor and judicial reforms that will pave the way for congressional approval of the long-pending U.S.-Colombia FTA, a deal that has been awaiting action for more than four years,” said ASA President Alan Kemper, a soybean producer from Lafayette, Ind. “As a result of delays in approving the pending FTA, the U.S. has lost market share to competitors in Colombia. In 2010, U.S. soybean product exports to Colombia were valued at $103 million, down 64 percent from 2008.”
U.S. wheat producers “need” the Colombia FTA to compete, said Wheat Growers President Wayne Hurst and U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Don Schieber in a joint statement. “Argentine wheat enjoys trade preferences under the Mercosur agreement. Canada and Colombia have ratified a separate FTA that will eliminate import tariffs on Canadian wheat and most other agricultural goods likely by July of this year. When that happens, the existing tariff and price band system applied to U.S. wheat imports will, in effect, make Canadian wheat significantly cheaper than U.S. wheat. As a result, Colombian millers who want to keep buying U.S. wheat would be forced buy more wheat from Canada because of the significant tariff disadvantage alone. The U.S.-Colombia FTA would remove that barrier.”
The U.S. Grains Council also favors the FTA. “In light of today’s good news, I am hopeful Congress will be able to ratify this much needed agreement with Colombia in the near term,” said Thomas Dorr, USGC President and CEO. “The Council, U.S. producers and agribusinesses look forward to a strong trade relationship with Colombia.”