US-Panama trade agreement progresses

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON –- Both the US and Panamanian governments were praised by the National Pork Producers Council for completing work on the US-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement. NPPC requested the Obama administration do its part to implement the legislation and pass it along to Congress soon.

New market opportunities for a wide range of American agricultural products will be provided by this trade agreement, NPPC said, plus it will level the playing field for US pork producers as well as other food producers.

“Implementing the pending trade agreement with Panama will level the playing field so US producers and exporters of food and farm products receive reciprocal market access,” said Doug Wolf, NPPC president. “It also will open to US pork producers, other agricultural sectors and US businesses a market of almost 3.4 million consumers.”

This trade agreement will add 20 cents to the price US producers receive for each hog marketed, with pork exports to Panama expected to increase by about $16 million a year, said Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes. The pact will also create more than 200 US pork industry jobs.

NPPC said US pork exports to Panama are currently restricted by a small quota and out-of-quota duties as high as 80 percent. According to terms under the Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, US pork variety meats would receive immediate duty-free treatment, and the trade deal would expand market access for US pork muscle meat through larger tariff rate quotas that will grow by 6 percent annually. In 15 years, out-of-quota tariffs will be phased out while all other tariffs on US pork will be phased out over 12 years.

The agreement also resolves significant sanitary and technical issues. Panama will recognize the meat inspection system of the US as equivalent to its meat inspection system, for example.

“With conclusion of this deal, the three trading agreements – Colombia, Panama and South Korea – are ready for Congress to consider,” Wolf said. “We ask the administration to send implementing legislation for all three, and we urge Congress to approve them before its August recess.”
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