Canada approves FTA with Colombia, leaving U.S. pork producers in the dust

By Melissa Coon

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, June 24 – The Canadian Senate approved a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia this week, ensuring that Canadian pork products and many other food and agricultural commodities will have an immediate market-access advantage over U.S. products in the Colombia market.

The U.S. and Colombia signed an FTA more than three and a half years ago in 2006. The Colombian Senate in 2007 voted to approve the agreement by a margin of 55-3 and the House by a margin of 85-10. Despite this, the U.S. Congress has yet to begin debate on the agreement.

The U.S.-Colombia FTA, when fully implemented, would raise live U.S. hog prices by $1.15, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes. Hayes says that if the U.S. does not implement the FTA with Colombia, the U.S. will be completely out of the Colombian pork market within 10 years, shifting trade benefits to Canadian pork producers.

“It is unfortunate that our producers have to pay the price for U.S. inaction on trade,” said National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Sam Carney. “Canada will gain the inside track on future export opportunities in the sizeable and growing Colombian market.”

Carney said markets lost to competitors are the ones hardest to gain access to.

“Business relationships between Canada and Colombia will become established, and when that happens, our only hope will be if we can offer a more competitively priced product,” he said. “But that will be virtually impossible if Colombian tariffs on Canadian products remain lower than on ours for years to come.”

The U.S.-Colombia FTA is one of three that are currently awaiting Congressional approval, including agreements with South Korea and Panama, both of which have been awaiting approval for more than three years. Panama recently finalized an FTA with Canada, and South Korea is working on a deal with the European Union.

According to Hayes, the U.S. FTA with South Korea alone would add $10 to U.S. hog prices.

NPPC has been calling for action on all three FTAs for years, pointing out the risk of letting other countries move forward first. Now that the risk is becoming reality, it is critical that the U.S. act quickly to at least keep its exports on a level playing field, according to the NPPC.

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