Grain groups applaud U.S.-Panama trade agreement

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The National Association of Wheat Growers, the U.S. Wheat Associates and the U.S. Grains Council were among the groups applauding the announcement that a free trade agreement has been reached with Panama. The news followed an agreement between the two countries known as the Tax Information Exchange Agreement, which is expected to allow the two countries to improve tax information exchange transparency networks globally.

“We congratulate the government of Panama for their steadfast commitment to free trade and their actions to ensure successful implementation of this agreement,” U.S. Wheat and NAWG said. The groups said the agreement, along with the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea, “will increase trade opportunities, create jobs in the United States and allow U.S. wheat growers to compete on equal terms in these markets.”

Terry Vinduska, chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, added, “The United States continues to face competitive challenges from other grain exporting nations. These agreements will hopefully restore a more level playing field in these critical markets for U.S. coarse grain exports.”

According to the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement immediately eliminates duties on half of U.S. farm exports, including on high quality beef, frozen turkeys, sorghum, soybeans, soybean meal, crude soybean and corn oil, almost all fruit products and tree nuts, wheat, most peanuts, whey, cotton and many processed products. Additionally, nearly all remaining tariffs on U.S. farm exports will be eliminated within 15 years.

Looking specifically at grains, the agreement provides immediate duty-free access for a specific volume of U.S. corn through a 298,700 tonne tariff-rate quota, with 3% compound annual growth. Panama will phase out the out-of-quota tariff of 40% over 15 years with tariff reductions beginning after 5 years, the U.S.T.R. said.

For wheat, soybeans, soybean meal and crude soybean oil, the agreement locks in duty-free treatment, and Panama will phase out the 20% tariff on crude soybean oil over 15 years beginning after 5 years, the U.S.T.R. said.
The United States exported more than $450 million in agricultural products to Panama during 2010, more than double the amount exported in 2005.
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