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Agriculture Today

Agreement paves way for U.S. trade in Colombia

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Wilson County News
May 11, 2011 | 3,029 views | Post a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Support for a pending free trade agreement with Colombia is flowing in from all quarters.

According to an April 6 press release from the U.S. Grains Council, a deal was struck on labor, clearing the way for the flow of trade between the United States and Colombia. Earlier this year, the council coordinated briefings with representatives of the Colombian feed milling, swine, and wheat industries to the Senate Finance Committee, House Ways and Means Committee, and House and Senate Agriculture Committees, explaining that duty preferences afforded to Argentina and Brazil have eroded the competitiveness of U.S. commodities.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Pro-Trade Caucus, applauded the agreement reached by the United States and Colombia.

According to an April 8 press release from Cuellar’s office, “The ... Agreement is unique in that 90 percent of Colombian goods already enter the U.S. duty free. When ... fully implemented, Colombia will immediately eliminate most of its tariffs on U.S. exports, with all remaining tariffs phased out over 10 years time. With average tariffs on U.S. exports ranging from 7.4 to 14.6 percent, this will substantially increase U.S. exports.”

Also voicing support for the agreement were the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

“U.S. farmers and ranchers have been losing market share in Colombia to our competitors who have trade agreements with the country,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, in an April 6 statement. “... Colombia has duty-free access to the U.S. market, while our products face excessive tariffs to sell to Colombia’s market. When implemented, the Colombia FTA would level the playing field for U.S. farmers and ranchers by eliminating these tariffs.”

According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the U.S.-Colombia agreement, when fully implemented, would represent U.S. export gains of more than $815 million per year.

“While we are optimistic that Congress will move quickly and ratify this agreement, we must continue to work to reach agreements with South Korea and Panama,” said Joe Parker Jr., rancher and president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in an April 6 press release. “Our global competitors continue to negotiate free trade agreements with other markets. If we don’t get the ball rolling, U.S. producers will be at a severe disadvantage.”

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