WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is being applauded by the National Pork Producers Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for concluding a free-trade agreement with Colombia, which has the third-largest economy in Central and South America. Next step is getting US congressional approval of the deal later this year.

“We are very excited about this agreement because it will provide significant new export opportunities for US pork producers,” said Doug Wolf, NPPC president and pork producer from Lancaster, Wis. “We’re grateful to the administration for finalizing the Colombia FTA, and we urge it to send the deal to Congress soon and urge lawmakers to approve it before their August recess.”

Colombia’s National Congress overwhelmingly approved the trade agreement. Once passed by the US Congress and fully implemented, it will add $1.15 to the price producers receive for each hog marketed, said Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes. The agreement will increase US pork exports to the South American country by $68.9 million and help create 919 US pork industry jobs.

Once the agreement is approved, many US food and agricultural products will become eligible for duty-free treatment – and the rest will receive duty-free treatment on full implementation of the FTA. The agreement will also eliminate other US export barriers, promote economic growth and expand trade between the two countries.

Leading a coalition of agricultural organizations in support of the trade agreement, NPPC has pointed out that while the US has delayed implementing the Colombia agreement, US agricultural industries, such as grain and wheat, have lost enormous sales to Argentina and other South American countries. Canada also recently concluded an FTA with Colombia, which will compound US sales losses.

If the US fails to implement its agreement with Colombia and Canada moves ahead with its deal, the US pork industry will be out of the Colombia market in 10 years, Iowa State’s Hayes estimates.

The provisions regarding US beef in the agreement announced April 6 are identical to the agreement signed more than four years ago. If the agreement is ratified by Congress, Colombia would open its markets to all US beef and beef products and would immediately eliminate the 80% tariff on prime and choice cuts. According to Colin Woodall, NCBA vice president of government affairs, the Colombia TPA is one of the best negotiated free-trade agreements to-date. Woodall said he is confident the agreement will be ratified.