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Progress On US, Colombia Free Trade Deal

08 April 2011

US - After years of negotiations and advocacy for the passage of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia, the US Grains Council learned early Wednesday morning that a deal has been struck on labour, clearing the way for liberating the flow of trade between the United States and this strategic trading partner in Latin America.

“The US Grains Council compliments the Administration and Congress for their support of US producers and for constantly keeping the issue of free trade on the table over these last several months,” USGC Chairman Terry Vinduska, said. “We are also grateful for the cooperation the Colombian government has provided the Council in helping US lawmakers understand the importance of free trade agreements between the United States and Colombia.”

The Council has been extremely active in advocating the need to ratify the agreement. 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. They explained that while the United States has been a reliable supplier, duty preferences afforded to Argentina and Brazil have eroded the competitiveness of US commodities.

In March, USGC President and CEO Thomas C. Dorr testified in front of the US House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, emphasising the benefits of a ratified Colombia-US FTA as well as other pending FTAs the United States has with various countries. He explained how the growing middle class in South and Central America posed ripe opportunities for US producers and how trade competition was tightening in the region as Colombia pursued FTAs with other nations.

Speaking at the US Grains Council’s 50th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting last July, Ambassador Islam A. Siddiqui, chief agriculture negotiator for the Office of the US Trade Representative, reassured participants of the efforts trade officials were making to ratify pending bilateral agreements.

Dorr said he is pleased with the cooperation coming from Colombian and US politicians in continuing efforts to make the pending FTA a reality. “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. The Council, US producers and agribusinesses look forward to a strong trade relationship with Colombia,” he said.

The value of US dairy exports to Colombia last year was $6 million. The estimated benefit to the US dairy industry over the first several years of an implemented agreement with Colombia would be an additional $25 million in exports per year.

Once implemented, the US-Colombia agreement is expected to boost US dairy exports through immediate open and unlimited access for most whey and lactose products, as well as duty-free access for sizable amounts of cheese and skim milk powder, among other dairy products. The United States will achieve additional dairy market access in Colombia as tariffs are ultimately phased out completely.

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