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Agricultural News

Obama Administration Declares Columbia FTA Better- Ready to Send It to Congress for a Vote

Thu, 07 Apr 2011 6:24:17 CDT

Obama Administration Declares Columbia FTA Better- Ready to Send It to Congress for a Vote Announcement of a deal came on Wednesday from the Obama Administration that a deal has been struck to "treak" the Bush Administration's Columbia Free Trade Agreement that has been in mothballs for almost three years.

According to a White House news release, "The result is an agreed “Action Plan Related to Labor Rights” that will lead to greatly enhanced labor rights in Colombia and clear the way for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to move forward to Congress. The U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement will expand U.S. goods exports alone by more than $1.1 billion and give key U.S. goods and services duty free access in sectors from manufacturing to agriculture. It will increase U.S. GDP by $2.5 billion and support thousands of additional U.S. jobs."

The US Wheat Industry has been beating the drum for the Columbia FTA since George W Bush finished the deal with Columbia at the end of his second term. The You Tube you see below is from 2009- and the only thing that has changed is that our competitors have moved ahead in securing access to the Columbian market- and the Obama Administration has not.

Click here for an Overview of this new Agreement reached between the two countries.

The US Trade Representative's office has also prepared a Fact Sheet, touting the specific benefits to US Agriculture from this agreement- click here for that Fact Sheet on the farm and ranch benefits to this deal.

At the top of the list of benefits to US agriculture- this free trade agreement "Immediately eliminates duties on almost 70 percent of U.S. farm exports including wheat, barley, soybeans, soybean meal and flour, high-quality beef, bacon, almost all fruit and vegetable products, peanuts, whey, cotton, and the vast majority of processed products."

A mutlitude of agricultural groups weighed in on the announcement from Ambassador Kirk:

National Association of Wheat Growers and US Wheat Associates:   

Following is a joint statement from National Association of Wheat Growers President Wayne Hurst, a wheat grower from Burley, Idaho, and U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Don Schieber, a wheat grower from Ponca City, Okla.:

"The U.S. wheat industry is very pleased to hear the announcement today from President Barack Obama’s Administration that the United States and Colombia have successfully negotiated a way forward on our pending free trade agreement (FTA). This is a critical step toward being able to compete on a level playing field in one of the largest wheat markets in South America. Without this FTA, U.S. wheat farmers face a potential loss of sales currently valued at about $100 million per year.

"This advancement is the result of hard work by parties in both the United States and Colombia. Specifically, we want to thank President Obama and his administration’s efforts to overcome points of contention in the original agreement. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian government and its people, especially the Colombian wheat milling industry, deserve praise for their efforts to make this agreement possible. We thank the many U.S. wheat industry leaders who have worked tirelessly to support the agreement. Members of Congress who have come out in support of the FTA also deserve credit for their role in moving the agreement forward.

"U.S. wheat producers need this FTA to compete in the Colombian market on the basis on quality and supply with wheat from other countries. 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.

"There is more work to be done before that happens. We encourage the Obama Administration to prepare and submit the FTA to the House of Representatives for a ratification vote as soon as possible. Assuming Congress and the Colombian legislature ratify the agreement, several months will be needed before the FTA is implemented. The National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates will continue to work to encourage rapid approval of the U.S.-Colombia FTA and FTAs with South Korea and Panama."


National Cattlemen's Beef Association   

The long-awaited trade agreement with Colombia gained momentum today, April 6, 2011, as President Obama announced an agreement has been reached. The agreement will now be sent to Congress to ratify. NCBA President Bill Donald said with 96 percent of the global population living outside of the United States, it is essential to take aggressive measures to enable trade and expand market access for U.S. agriculture in order to stimulate the economy and, more importantly, feed a growing global population.

“The cattle industry can breathe a sigh of relief today as the Colombia agreement finally gets the long overdue attention it deserves,” said Donald. “This agreement has collected dust for well over four years while our trade competitors proactively sign, seal and deliver trade pacts. Most recently, Canada finalized an agreement with Colombia while we watched from the sidelines.”

The Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) was signed by the U.S. Trade Representative and the Colombian trade minister on Nov. 22, 2006. The provisions regarding U.S. beef in the agreement announced today are identical to the agreement signed more than four years ago. If the agreement is ratified by Congress, Colombia would open its markets to all U.S. beef and beef products and would immediately eliminate the 80 percent tariff on prime and choice cuts. According to Colin Woodall, NCBA vice president of government affairs, the Colombia TPA is one of the best negotiated free trade agreements to-date. Woodall said he is confident the agreement will be ratified.


American Soybean Association    

The American Soybean Association (ASA) expresses appreciation to President Barack Obama and his team of negotiators who successfully completed an Action Plan to resolve the issues that have held up the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The trade agreement will create new opportunities for American farmers and ranchers in the Colombian market. U.S. soybean farmers will also have the opportunity to regain some of the market share previously lost to competitors in South America. ASA leaders now call for the Administration to work closely with the Colombian government to ensure swift submission and Congressional approval of the implementing legislation for the Agreement.

“U.S. soybean farmers are 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 Free Trade Agreement, 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.”

The Colombia FTA will benefit soybean farmers by immediately eliminating tariffs ranging from 5-20 percent on soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour, and phase-out the 24 percent tariffs for crude soybean oil over 10 years and refined soybean oil over 5 years, correcting the current tariff imbalance in agricultural trade between our countries. The agreement will provide immediate duty-free access for crude soybean oil through a 31,200-ton quota with four percent annual growth.


National Pork Producers Council    

The National Pork Producers Council praised the Obama administration for today concluding a free trade agreement with Colombia, paving the way for congressional approval of the deal later this year.

“We are very excited about this agreement because it will provide significant new export opportunities for U.S. pork producers,” said NPPC President Doug Wolf, a pork producer from Lancaster, Wis. “We’re grateful to the administration for finalizing the Colombia FTA, and we urge it to send the deal to Congress soon and urge lawmakers to approve it before their August recess.”

The Colombian National Congress overwhelmingly approved the trade agreement, which, when approved by the U.S. Congress and fully implemented, will add $1.15 to the price producers receive for each hog marketed, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes. The agreement will increase U.S. pork exports to the South American country by $68.9 million and help create 919 U.S. pork industry jobs.


National Corn Growers Association       

The National Corn Growers Association today commended the progress made on resolving outstanding issues with the Colombia Free Trade Agreement that will now allow Congress to move forward with consideration. The Colombia 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 10 export markets for U.S. corn,” NCGA President Bart Schott said. “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.”

During marketing year 2007-08, the United States exported 114 million bushels of corn to Colombia, with an estimated value of nearly $627 million. U.S. corn exports declined dramatically during the 2009-10 marketing year, with only 36 million bushels exported, valued at $152 million. The decline in exports reflected a loss of $475 million to the U.S. economy.


American Farm Bureau Federation   

The following statement attributed to Bob Stallamn, President of the AFBF-

“The fact that the Obama administration has been able to strike a deal that moves the Colombia free trade agreement forward is great news for America’s farmers and ranchers. This is the kind of development that a group of Farm Bureau leaders has been pushing for the last two weeks during our visit to Colombia and Panama.

“U.S. farmers and ranchers have been losing market share in Colombia to our competitors who have trade agreements with the country. It’s time to turn the tide and recoup our losses. 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.

“The Colombia, South Korea and Panama agreements will create expanded markets for American farm and ranch products and boost our overall economy. Together, the three agreements represent nearly $3 billion of additional agricultural exports from the United States and could generate as many as 27,000 new U.S. jobs.

“After meetings this week and last with farmers, ranchers and agricultural leaders from Colombia, we know this is a development welcomed by all sides. Trade will help the United States build stronger bonds with our Latin American neighbors, and it makes sense given our advantage of proximity and history of cooperation. The administration should work with Congress to ensure passage of all three agreements by summer so we can better our nation’s trade picture and build American jobs in the process.”



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