Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) urged forward movement on a pending free trade agreement with Panama at a hearing on the subject held this week by his Committee.
The hearing featured witness testimony from the assistant U.S. trade representative for western hemisphere affairs; the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar; the policy director at AFL-CIO, which opposes movement on the agreement; and the president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council.
“Well over 90 percent of Panama’s products currently enter the United States duty-free under our trade preference programs,” Baucus said in a statement about the hearing. “It is high time that U.S. products get similar treatment in Panama. The time to move the FTA is now.”
The Panama agreement is seen as the most likely to move of three pending agreements, including separate measures negotiated with Colombia and South Korea. All three have been held up for more than a year, largely due to political disagreements. The Panama agreement continues to face hurdles including labor and banking concerns, and many of Baucus’ fellow Democrats do not agree with his desire to move forward quickly.
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates support passage of all three agreements, and NAWG has actively pushed these measures on the Hill.
The full hearing can be viewed on the Senate Finance Web page, http://finance.senate.gov/, under “Hearings”.
Also this week, Baucus introduced a bill, S. 1089, Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act of 2009, to clarify payment terms for trade with Cuba and make agricultural trade with that country easier.
This is one of a number of bills introduced this session with respect to Cuba, including S. 428/H.R. 874, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act; H.R. 1737, Agricultural Export Facilitation Act of 2009; and three bills from House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) relating to Cuba.
NAWG and U.S. Wheat also strongly support efforts to ease trade restrictions with Cuba, which cost the U.S. wheat industry an estimated $40 million per year.