The House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade today held a hearing on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the first in a series of three hearings on pending trade agreements. Ambassador Miriam Sapiro from the Office of the Trade Representative and Robert D. Hormats, under secretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs from the U.S. Department of State, provided testimony.

Both answered questions regarding a timeline for sending to Congress the agreement with Colombia and the pending agreements with Korea and Panama, as well as the work being done in Colombia regarding labor and violence issues. Although Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, strongly advocates considering all three agreements by July 1, both Sapiro and Hormats could not provide a definitive timeline, stating only that the Obama administration "shares the sense of urgency."

The free trade agreement with Colombia offers important short- and long-term economic benefits to U.S. rice producers, millers and exporters. Without the passage and implementation of this agreement, U.S. rice exports to Colombia will be sporadic at best. U.S. sales suffer further from the duty-free treatment afforded rice from other suppliers in the region.