A bi-partisan congressional delegation led by Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer will travel to Cartagena, Colombia, on July 18 to emphasize the importance of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA).
Congressional members traveling to Colombia with Secretary Schafer are Congressman Gerald Weller (R-IL), Congressman Allen Boyd (D-FL), and Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX). Additionally, representatives from a number of Republican and Democrat Senate and Congressional offices will be on the trip.
"Colombia is an important friend and trading partner of the United States," Schafer said in an official statement. "This trip will provide Congressional members with an invaluable opportunity to see first hand the Colombian government's success in bringing about stability and economic growth, and how the CTPA will help to continue this progress. We will also be able to see new markets for U.S. agricultural exports."
Members of Congress will also have an opportunity to meet with Colombian government officials, including President Alvaro Uribe, as well as Colombian agricultural producers, business leaders and union representatives.
CTPA will eliminate tariffs and other barriers to U.S. goods and services, promote economic growth, and will expand trade between the United States and Colombia, according to the media release. The agreement will level the economic playing field for U.S. farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and service providers who have faced barriers to Colombia's market while Colombia already enjoys duty-free access to the U.S. market under the Andean Trade Preference Act and its extensions.
Trade benefits for U.S. agricultural producers in this market will be achieved through immediate elimination of variable tariffs, according to the statement, with half of U.S. exports entering duty-free as soon as the CTPA is implemented. Most tariffs will be phased out in 15 years, and all within 19 years. Colombia, the largest market for U.S. agricultural products in South America, will gain permanent market access to the U.S. market and benefit from trade capacity building programs that will enhance its ability to participate in the global marketplace.
In calendar year 2007, the U.S. shipped a record $1.2 billion worth of agricultural products to Colombia. Sales in each of the three major categories of U.S. agricultural product exports also reached new records. Bulk products were $886 million, intermediate products $228 million, and consumer-oriented products totaled $108 million. Top U.S. agricultural exports to this market include coarse grains, wheat, soybeans, cotton, soybean meal, feeds and fodders, snack foods and fresh fruit.
Colombia is also an agricultural supplier to the U.S., shipping a record $1.5 billion worth of products in 2007. Major U.S. imports Colombian imports include coffee, nursery products, cut flowers and bananas and plantains.