A U.S. Grains Council delegation was the first group to meet with key officials in Panama and Colombia since U.S. passage of the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements. The team explored the outlook for FTA implementation with government officials in both countries, with private sector grain customers, and with U.S. ambassadors and USDA staff. National Corn Growers Association Chairman Bart Schott, who spent much of his year as NCGA president working for U.S. ratification of the agreements, said their purpose was to see how far those folks have gone on implementing the FTAs.
"In Colombia, we met with a couple of big conglomerates, and they are very excited about the new FTA," Schott said. "Some thought it would be implemented by April, some said June, and some said the end of the year."
According to Schott it sounds like implementation will progress smoothly in Panama and Colombia, and we'll be back exporting corn to them. However he says both countries are currently sourcing corn from Argentina, and it's very good quality, but excitement about the shipping advantage with U.S. feed grains is clear. Panamanian customers, for example, can place an order and receive their shipment within five days.
Meanwhile, the free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States may take effect by February of next year despite more time needed for preparation. That's the word from Seoul's top trade official. South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon says both sides are working to advance the implementation of the trade pact, but it will take more time to complete procedures, and it is impossible to meet the agreed-upon date. The trade ministry had previously stated that the exact time table for the implementation would be determined in mid-December.
The South Korean government has effectively accepted 13 extra measures agreed upon by ruling and opposition parties to limit possible fallout. They include: giving more subsidies to farmers and fishermen to compensate for earning losses caused by cheaper U.S. imports and expanding inexpensive electricity charges for farming communities.
One study shows that the KORUS FTA is expected to help South Korea's economy expand more than 5% in the long term as it will lead to more exports by reducing trade barriers. The report predicts that South Korea will see its trade surplus with the U.S. increase by $140 million annually over the next 15 years after the FTA goes into effect. The nation's total global trade surplus will expand by an annual average of $2.77 billion.