Thirty-five Members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday requesting an up or down vote on the Colombia free trade agreement “without further delay”.
The agreement was signed by both countries on Nov. 22, 2006 – more than three years ago – but has languished due to a heavy legislative calendar and for other political reasons.
In their letter, led by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the Members focused on a key issue for Congressional Leadership – jobs.
“For almost two decades, more than 90 percent of Colombian products have enjoyed open and duty-free access to American markets. At the same time, U.S. exports to Colombia face steep tariffs as high as 20 percent,” the letter said. “This inequity has resulted in lost opportunities for American businesses, and lost jobs for Americans.”
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates are highly supportive of quick action on the Colombia agreement to help preserve U.S. market share in that country.
Colombia is the largest market for U.S. wheat in South America, with a U.S. market share typically around 70 percent and sales last year valued at $225 million. However, leading competitors, notably Canada and Argentina, are poised to take more of the market due in large part to more favorable trade preferences. Wheat from Argentina already enters duty free, and Canada will soon be ratifying a free trade agreement with the country. Colombia is also working on a free trade agreement with the European Union.
In July, U.S. Wheat sponsored a trade team including Colombian wheat buyers and millers who told the media, Obama Administration officials and Hill offices that U.S. wheat sales to their country would likely drop by more than 50 percent if a pending free trade agreement isn’t ratified soon.
A copy of the letter is available at http://hastings.house.gov/Read.aspx?ID=1311.
More on the Colombia agreement’s importance to the wheat industry is at www.wheatworld.org/trade.