U.S. congressional delay had cost companies billions of dollars in tariffs.
BY LBC STAFF
The US congressional passage of free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama are receiving widespread praise among U.S. and Latin American business leaders.
"Passing these trade agreements represents a victory for American workers, American competitiveness, and American leadership," Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “It means we will immediately stop losing jobs to our competitors who have cut their own deals and we can start creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs for Americans.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses.
“Colombian businessmen celebrate this important new step,” Luis Carlos Villegas, president of Colombia’s main business organization ANDI, said in a statement. “We pledge to make every effort so that the treaty can bring abundant formal employment and of good quality to many Colombians, especially young people and different regions.”
However, he also emphasized that the treaty, which he hoped would be implemented early next year, would put pressure on Colombia to quickly improve its infrastructure, institutional competitiveness, judiciary, agricultural sector and transparency.
Although Colombia already has FTAs with Canada and Switzerland and is set to sign one with the European Union next year, Villegas believes the US-Colombia FTA will especially help the South American country face the challenges next year of a slowing global economy.
The Latin America Trade Coalition estimates that US companies have paid $3.8 billion in tariffs to Colombia since the US-Colombia FTA was signed in November 2006. Negotiations concluded in February 2006.
Then-President George W Bush submitted the Colombia FTA to Congress for approval in April 2008, but then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked a vote and the FTA had since been awaiting formal approval by US lawmakers. Pelosi voted against the Colombia FTA on Wednesday.
The US-Panama FTA was signed in June 2007.
The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) applauded Congress and the Administration of President Barack Obama for working together to approve the FTAs and to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA).
“We are very pleased with the outcome … and applaud Congress and the Administration for working together to advance the U.S. trade agenda through approval of the FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, as well as the renewal of TAA, GSP and the Andean trade preferences,” NFTC President Bill Reinsch said in a statement. “These agreements and programs will boost the U.S. economy and create and support thousands of American jobs.
We urge Congress and the Administration to work together with the Colombian, Panamanian and South Korean governments to ensure that each agreement is implemented as soon as possible.”
The American Soybean Association (ASA) also applauded the FTA votes. "ASA has been working for a number of years toward passage of these trade agreements, which contain significant export gains for U.S. agriculture." ASA President Alan Kemper said in a statement. "Increased exports of U.S. soy and soy fed meat and poultry will benefit soybean farmers and rural economies. After nearly five years of delays and loss of U.S. market share, soybean farmers look forward to realizing the opportunities these FTAs provide for America’s economic growth."
The Colombia FTA will create new opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers in the Colombian market by immediately eliminating tariffs ranging from 5-20 percent on soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour, and phasing-out the 24 percent tariffs for crude soybean oil and refined soybean oil over five years. Meanwhile, the Panama FTA will benefit soybean farmers by immediately removing the tariffs on U.S. soybeans, soybean meal, and crude vegetable oils, ASA said.
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