News came this week that the Colombian Constitutional Court has completed its review of the Colombia-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and affirmed its constitutionality.
This ruling marks the last procedural step needed to clear the way for the agreement to enter into force by July 2011. At that time, Canadian wheat and many other products will enjoy immediate duty-free access to the Colombian market.
Colombia will also eliminate the use of its price band system on selected Canadian products, including wheat.
In just 90 days, years of effort to build a market for U.S. wheat in Colombia could be wiped away because the U.S. government has not ratified our pending FTA with Colombia. The existing tariff and price band system applied to U.S. wheat imports will, in effect, make Canadian wheat significantly cheaper than U.S. wheat.
Colombian flour millers say they want to be able to keep buying U.S. wheat, but the tariff disadvantage will force them to buy wheat from Canada instead. The estimated loss to U.S. wheat producers is nearly $100 million per year.
USW is encouraged by recent news that negotiations on the U.S.-Colombia FTA have intensified, and the wheat producers we represent in international markets greatly appreciate the growing base of support in Congress for advancing the Colombia, Panama and South Korea FTAs.
Colombia has routinely been the top import market in South America for U.S. wheat producers and we have been waiting since 2006 for the U.S.-Colombia agreement to be implemented. It is time to act now to advance our historic trade relationship as the clock is ticking towards a needless economic loss.