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Panama FTA Could Boost Ag Exports

The U.S. Grains Council is enthusiastic about the trade agreement, but Congress has to sign it before it can go into effect.

The U.S. and Panama signed a free-trade agreement at the end of June, just ahead of the expiration of President Bush's Trade Promotion Authority. The U.S. Grains Council says that if Congress passes the deal, "it's a definite win for U.S. producers."

USGC director of trade policy Kevin Natz says that if the Panama deal and pending trade agreements with Colombia and Peru come through, "the U.S. ultimately will broaden market access for U.S. feed grains to over two-thirds of the population in the Western Hemisphere."

Tariff elimination under an almost 300,000 ton corn tariff rate quota would grow 3% per year compounded upon implementation of the Panama agreement, Natz says.

Because the deal was signed before TPA expired, Congress will not be able to make amendments and will be forced to give the agreement an up or down vote. However, because legislators are likely to prioritize the agreement with Peru and Congress goes on recess in August, the vote on the Panama FTA may not happen until September.

Although Panama already has "broad duty free-access" to U.S. products, only 34% of agricultural exports entered Panama duty-free in 2006. The two countries did $3.1 billion in bilateral trade in 2006.

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