Corn growers focus on trade negotiations

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and other agricultural groups are urging Congress to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status to Vietnam and to move forward on trade agreements with Colombia and Peru.

Congress is scheduled to vote later this month on PNTR status with Vietnam.

If agreements are worked out with all three nations, the export market for U.S. corn will have immediate access for as much as 2.6 million metric tons at zero duty, greatly increasing regional competitiveness. Market access will also be improved for corn gluten feed and meal and distillers dried grains.

“Anytime we can open a new market, it’s to our advantage,” said Bob Bowman, chairman of NCGA’s Joint Trade Policy A-Team. “But we’re most interested in the long-term impact. Once we start trading on any level, it opens the door to value-added agricultural products, like ethanol and beef.”

However, Bowman cautions, negotiations are often long and complicated. Trade negotiations with Panama have been delayed, while that country dealt with a national referendum on expanding the Panama Canal. A trade agreement with South Korea depends on resolving sensitive issues surrounding rice and beef. Talks are scheduled to resume in December.

“We have to realize that improving trade is a long-term process, but that we’re looking for long-term results,” Bowman says.

In addition to delays with Panama and South Korea, Bowman notes, discussions with the Malaysian government, which had been postponed since May, are only now being restarted. Negotiations with Thailand have been postponed indefinitely.

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