USTR Notifies Hill that Panama Trade Deal Work Can Begin

April 19, 2011 04:36 AM

Then there were three. The stage now appears to be set for pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and now Panama are closer to being put for a vote in Congress.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk notified the House Ways & Means and the Senate Finance Committees that the U.S. and Panama have completed preparatory work and he is now ready to begin technical talks on drafting legislation to implement the trade deal. Kirk said President Obama had instructed him to resolve the outstanding issues with Panama as quickly as possible, which prompted an agreement with Panamanian officials on a set of actions that would lead to congressional consideration of the agreement. "Panama has now fulfilled its commitments regarding those actions," he said.

Panama's National Assembly approved the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) on April 14 as part of a deal to cement the agreement between the two countries. The U.S. has sought the TIEA due to Panama's prior reputation as a tax haven.

Reaction on the Hill was positive, as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said, "The next step is to agree on an implementing bill so we can get the agreement before Congress."

The panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), said, "I appreciate the Administration notifying Congress that they are ready to begin the technical work on the implementing bill and believe they also must now act swiftly to notify Congress that they are ready to begin work on the implementing bill for the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement."

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) also hailed the Panama developments, saying the deal will provide new market opportunities for a wide range of American agricultural products. "Implementing the pending trade agreement with Panama will level the playing field so that U.S. producers and exporters of food and farm products receive reciprocal market access," said NPPC President Doug Wolf. "It also will open to U.S. pork producers, other agricultural sectors and U.S. businesses a market of almost 3.4 million consumers."

The Panama trade deal will add 20 cents to the price producers receive for each hog marketed, with pork exports to Panama expected to increase by about $16 million a year. It also will create more than 200 U.S. pork industry jobs, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) has also has analysis of the three trade deals and the benefits they expect for U.S. agriculture from those and other trade pacts. The conclude in a brief summary that U.S. agricultural exports to Korea would expand by an estimated $1.9 billion per year if the U.S. TA with Korea were implemented. The U.S.-Colombia TA would result in an estimated $370 million in additional U.S. exports per year. U.S. exports would realize smaller gains of about $50 million per year under the pact with Panama.

You can access the report via this link.


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