Congress approved this week free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, nearly five years after the agreements were first negotiated.
The House and Senate both passed the agreements on Wednesday. The Colombia agreement was passed by 262-167 in the House and 66-33 in the Senate. The Panama agreement was passed by 300-129 in the House and 77-22 in the Senate. The South Korea agreement was passed by 278-151 in the House and 82-15 in the Senate.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the agreements quickly, though he had not done so as of press time.
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates have long supported the trio of trade measures, which will remove duties and level the playing field for U.S. wheat in those countries.
The wheat industry quickly applauded Congressional passage of the agreements.
In a press statement, NAWG President Wayne Hurst and USW Chairman Randy Suess said:
“We have waited for the day these agreements would be taken up for many years now. Based on our work within the wheat industry, we know these agreements and others like them will help us rebuild and expand markets, grow our economy here at home and remain the most reliable supplier of wheat in the world.”
The industry is now urging quick implementation of the three agreements to help build and maintain critical market share.
The long delay in Congressional consideration of the measures, which were signed in 2006 and 2007, has significantly hurt wheat exports, especially to Colombia.
As recently as 2007/2008, 70 percent of Colombia’s total annual wheat imports came from U.S. farmers. U.S. sales have fallen since then to a low of 46 percent of total imports.
At the same time, Canada negotiated and ratified an FTA with Colombia that entered into force in August, allowing Canadian wheat to enter Colombia duty free. Since June, Canadian wheat exports to Colombia have doubled versus last year while U.S. wheat exports have fallen 20 percent.
While current tariffs do not significantly affect wheat exports to Panama and South Korea, those FTAs also eliminate duties on U.S. wheat and, in general, lowering barriers to trade typically increases the value and volume of all U.S. agricultural exports.
With the three long-pending FTAs now nearly finalized, both NAWG and USW, who work jointly on trade policy issues on behalf of U.S. wheat farmers, remain dedicated to the ongoing work of opening additional markets and winning back market share lost in recent years.
More on the industry’s trade work is at www.wheatworld.org/trade.