According to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk the trade deal with Panama is ready for the next step. In a letter sent Monday to the Chairmen of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, Kirk states that his office has completed preparatory work on the agreement and is ready to begin technical discussions with Members of Congress on the draft implementing bill and draft Statement of Administration Action.
This announcement means that deals have been struck for all three pending free trade agreements that were made over four years ago. Recently negotiators have reached acceptable agreements with South Korea and Colombia on issues that had been holding up completion of those deals. The big question is when the Administration will finally send those agreements to Congress for ratification and implementation.
American Soybean Association President Alan Kemper says the U.S. has a large share of the Panamanian agricultural market that must be protected. ASA says the free trade agreement will prevent other countries from taking some of the current U.S. share of the market and will benefit soybean farmers by immediately removing tariffs on U.S. soybeans, soybean meal and crude vegetable oils. Tariffs will also be removed immediately for high quality beef, certain chicken products, frozen whole turkeys and turkey breast and pork variety meats.
Soybeans are the largest export commodity in the U.S. with over $23 billion in sales last year. That represents 20% of total agricultural exports in 2010 and more than half of the soybeans produced in the United States. In 2010 the U.S. exported $65 million worth of soybean products to Panama.
"ASA is also urging approval of the pending FTAs with South Korea and Colombia that would significantly improve access to foreign markets for U.S. soy and livestock products," Kemper said. "These three trade agreements combined represent almost $3 billion of additional agricultural exports to these trading partners."