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US-Panama Free Trade Agreement enters into force Oct. 31

U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement enters into force Oct. 31

By Agri-Pulse staff

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2012 — United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk announced today the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement will enter into force on October 31, 2012.

Kirk and Ricardo Quijano, Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Government of Panama, announced they exchanged letters determining the implementation date of the Agreement, also known as the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

According to USTR, U.S. agricultural goods currently face an average tariff of 15 percent, with some tariffs as high as 260 percent. Nearly half of U.S. exports of agricultural commodities to Panama will immediately become duty-free, including wheat, barley, soybeans, high-quality beef, bacon, and almost all fruit and vegetable products, with most of the remaining tariffs to be eliminated within 15 years.

Kirk said the agreement provides U.S. firms and workers improved access to customers in Panama’s $22 billion services market.

“Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, expanding 10.6 percent in 2011, with forecasts of between five to eight percent annual growth through 2017. That adds up to support for more well-paying jobs across the United States,” Ambassador Kirk said. “The increased access to this expanding market is backed by the Agreement’s strong enforcement provisions.”

President Obama signed the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act into law in the United States on October 21, 2011. Free Trade Agreements with Korea and Colombia entered into force earlier this year.

With the enactment of the U.S.-Panama FTA, House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said “we can now begin to regain the market share for U.S. goods and services lost in Panama during the years this agreement sat on the shelf.”

“While I am pleased that entry into force will occur soon, finally implementing an agreement that was completed over five years ago is merely treading water,” he said, pushing for a prompt completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Similar to the FTA with Colombia, the agreement with Panama provides assurances for a stable export market through plant inspection equivalency, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Panama also modified its import requirements related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to be consistent with international standards.

“The cattle industry has been waiting on implementation of this agreement for a long time and we’re looking forward to increased trade opportunities with Panama,” said Bob McCan, NCBA vice president. “The U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement immediately eliminates the 30 percent tariff on prime and choice beef cuts and all other duties will be phased out over the next 15 years.”

NCBA added that with Panama and Colombia agreements in place, the United States will have free trade for U.S. beef with approximately two-thirds of the population in the Western Hemisphere.

 source: Agri-Pulse