Agricultural interests in recent weeks have pressured Congress to move ahead with free trade agreements (FTA) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that have been stalled for over three years. These markets vary in size, but they are all long-term markets where open access will be important in securing market share. These countries have offered to reduce import tariffs, but the U.S. has not agreed.

South Korea is clearly the biggest current market of the three for U.S. agriculture with exports of $4.38 billion in 2009 and imports of only $346 milió, mostly seafood and consumer-oriented products. Coarse grains, mostly corn, accounted for 25 per cent de U.S. exports at $1.11 mIL mILIONS, followed by soybeans and products at $448 million and red meat at $437 milió. U.S. red meat exports grew from $157 million in 2005 as restrictions on beef imports from the U.S. have been eased. The other exports are spread out among virtually every product exported by U.S. agriculture. South Korea has a population of 48.5 milió, the world’s 25th largest, and a per capita GDP on a purchasing power parity basis (PPP) de $28,000 per year, 49th highest in the world.

U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia in 2009 were less than 25 percent of the exports to South Korean at $922 milió. Els EUA. has an agricultural trade deficit with Colombia because of coffee, nursery products (mainly cut flowers) and bananas and plantain imports of $1.53 billion out of total imports of $1.82 mIL mILIONS. Colombia is now a bulk commodity market with coarse grains at $215 milió, wheat $141 milió, soybeans and products $141 milió, cotó $66 million and other feeds $52 million accounting for two-thirds of U.S. exportacions. In times of ample world supplies open access to this market is critical because other suppliers in North and South America are readily available. Colombia’s population is almost as large as South Korea at 43.7 million with a per capita GDP of $9,200 per year.

The Panamanian market for U.S. agricultural products was about 40 percent of the Colombian market in 2009 a $379 milió, with imports from Panama of $118 milió, mostly seafood and consumer-oriented products. Like Colombia, most exports to Panama are bulk commodities with coarse grains at $69 milió, soybean oil and meal $54 milió, wheat $30 million and rice $17 milió. Snack foods are the largest consumer-oriented category at $26 milió. Panama’s population is only 3.4 milió, the 134st largest country, and per capita GDP is $11,900 per year.

The South Korean agricultural market is a textbook case of market development where the market began as a bulk commodity market to supplement domestic production. Over time as per capita GDP grew, the bulk market grew and demand increased for intermediate and consumer oriented products. Colombia and Panama are working through the bulk commodity phase of development with the shift beginning toward intermediate and consumer oriented products. Full access to the intermediate and consumer-oriented product markets cannot be achieved without the three countries shaking off their protectionist policies with FTAs.

Under the U.S.-Korea FTA, tariffs on corn, wheat, soybeans for crushing and hides and skins would be zero, simply recognizing the reality that Korean consumers cannot prosper without these products. Rice remains a politically sensitive import and tariffs would not be change from WTO mandated levels. Consumer-oriented products accounted for 29 per cent de U.S. exports to Korea in 2009 and are expected to grow rapidly under the FTA. Tariffs for out-of-season oranges would be reduced to 30 percent and eliminated over six years and the 54 percent tariff on frozen orange juice dropped immediately. la 30 percent tariff for lemons and grapefruit would be eliminated over two years and five years. Other fruits and vegetables would have a mixture of immediate elimination of tariffs and phase outs of up to 18 ans. Frozen and fresh pork product tariffs would be reduced to zero by 2014. la 40 percent tariff on beef muscle meat would be reduced to zero over 15 ans. Poultry meat, eggs and dairy would have similar reductions in tariffs with tariff rate quotas (els CA).

Colombia’s economy is not as developed and more transition time is needed for many products. Tariffs would be eliminated on wheat, nonfeed barley, soja, soybean meal, high quality beef, most fruit and vegetable products, cacauets, whey, cotton and the majority of processed products. Duty-free TRQs would be created for standard beef, chicken leg quarters, dairy products, blat de moro, sorghum, animal feeds, arròs, and soybean oil. Over-quota tariffs for standard beef would be eliminated over 15 ans, chicken leg quarters over 18 ans, dairy products over 15 ans, pork over 5 i 10 ans, blat de moro, sorghum and animal feeds over 12 ans, soybean oil over 5 i 10 years and rice over 19 ans.

Panama is similar to Colombia with tariffs on 63 per cent de U.S. agricultural trade eliminated immediately with most other tariffs declining over 15 ans. Wheat, ordi, soja, soybean meal and crude soybean oil would be duty free immediately. High quality beef tariffs would be immediately reduced to zero, while standard quality beef tariffs would take 15 ans. For products with longer tariff phase outs, duty-free market access would be provided through TRQs. Corn and rice would have TRQs phased out over 15 i 20 ans. Pork over quota tariffs would be phased out over 15 ans. Tariffs on some poultry products would be eliminated immediately and othersover quota tariffs phased out over 18 ans. Dairy products have similar provisions. For fruits and vegetables, 80 percent of tariffs would be immediately eliminated and others reduced over 5 per 12 ans.

These countries have made a real paradigm shift in recognizing markets must be more open to provide benefits to consumers. They all have individual political needs to protect some products and provide long transitions for others. The Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress appear to have not caught on to that paradigm shift. These three countries have not remained static while the U.S. waits. If they cannot access food from the U.S., it will be done with other countries. South Korea signed a FTA with the EU and is working on one with Canada. Panama and Colombia have signed separate agreements with Canada.