While President Barack Obama was in Colombia this week, actual work did get done, the two countries agreed that May 15 would be the beginning of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. Farm groups hailed the news that can provide more open markets for U.S. goods including soybeans and wheat.
"We are extremely pleased to see this FTA set for implementation," says Alvaro de la Fuente, U.S. Wheat Associates, regional vice president for South America. "Our extensive efforts over the nearly six years since the agreement was first signed have finally become a reality and U.S. wheat exports will now compete on an equal basis with other major exporters."
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk notes that the agreement will provide American businesses, farmers and ranchers with "significantly improved access to the third largest economy in South America." When the agreement takes affect tariffs across a wide range of products will fall.
Colombia is currently the second largest destination for U.S. wheat in South America. In marketing year 2010/11, Colombia imported about 800,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat from five of the six U.S. wheat classes. The implementation of the FTA will help the United States regain the market share lost this year after the Canada-Colombia FTA went into effect on Aug. 15, 2011.
"We have already started the push to win back the wheat export business we lost without this FTA in effect," said Randy Suess, a wheat farmer from Colfax, WA, and USW chairman. "Based on our work, we know this agreement, 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 enactment of the free trade agreement with Colombia next month is a tremendous opportunity for soybean farmers, as it will expand a valuable export market for our products," said ASA First Vice President Danny Murphy, a soybean farmer from Canton, Miss. "We are making steady progress toward regaining lost market share in Colombia, and this agreement will markedly advance that progress. We applaud the efforts of the Obama and Santos Administrations in seeing the free trade agreement with Colombia enacted next month."
As part of the agreement, more than half of all U.S. farm exports to Colombia - including soybeans and soybean meal and flour - will become duty-free, with virtually all of the remaining tariffs to be eliminated over the next 15 years. The agreement also provides duty free tariff rate quotas (TRQ) on soybean oil, as well as livestock and dairy exports that utilize soybean inputs.