Grainews.ca | 8/17/2009
Panama lifts beef ban ahead of Canada FTA
Panama has lifted its six-year-old BSE-related ban on Canadian beef as it concludes talks on a new free trade agreement with Canada that will improve access for other ag commodities.
"I’m pleased to see that Panama recognizes that Canada produces safe, high quality beef and pork products and I encourage all countries in Latin America to open their doors,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a release last week.
Panama announced it would lift the ban and will also approve Canada’s meat inspection system, giving Canadian exporters the ability to ship beef and pork from all federally-registered meat plants.
Panama’s beef ban dates back to the confirmation of Canada’s first domestic case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an Alberta cow in May 2003.
The announcement came last week after Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli in Panama City to officially conclude negotiations on the two countries’ free trade agreement (FTA).
Once implemented, the FTA as negotiated is expected to also require Panama to eliminate tariffs on over 90 per cent of its current imports from Canada immediately.
Canadian products that would see immediate duty-free access to Panama upon the agreement’s implementation include frozen potato products as well as beans, lentils, malt, agreed volumes of “high-quality” beef and certain pork products, fish and other seafood, certain forest products, and manufactured goods such as machinery and flight simulators.
After that, the government said in a release, remaining tariffs would be eliminated within a range of five to 10 years. A small number of “sensitive” products would be subject to longer phase-out periods.
Canada, in return, would eliminate tariffs on over 99 per cent of current imports from Panama immediately on the FTA’s implementation. Remaining tariffs would be eliminated within 15 years.
Over-access imports of dairy, poultry and eggs would be exempted from any tariff reductions, as would the tariffs on certain sugar products, the Canadian government said.
An exact date of implementation hasn’t yet been given for the FTA, which first must be reviewed and approved by the two countries’ governments and is also subject to a “careful legal review.”