U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said this week that Obama Administration officials are working to resolve issues standing in the way of finalizing long-pending free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia.
Kirk said a team was in Panama this week to continue negotiations on the agreements and that the Administration would like to see that agreement finalized “sooner rather than later”.
Kirk also said U.S. and Colombian officials are meeting on that agreement, and, while concerns remain, specifically with regard to worker safety, Obama thinks “a resolution of the Colombia trade agreement would be a good thing for both economies.”
Also this week, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote Obama voicing support for movement on a pending trade agreement with South Korea. The Senators noted the need to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea relationship in light of a recent missile test from North Korea, and the potential benefits for U.S. agricultural producers if the agreement is finalized.
Labor and environmental concerns on the part of some Congressional Democrats and other political disputes on the issue of trade generally have kept all three agreements stalled for more than a year.
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates, which jointly manage trade policy for the wheat industry, strongly support quick passage of all three agreements.