Thirty-five House of Representatives members have written House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting an up or down vote on the Colombia free trade agreement “without further delay.” The agreement was signed by both countries on Nov. 22, 2006, but has languished due to a heavy legislative calendar and for other political reasons.

National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates are highly supportive of quick action on the Colombia agreement to help preserve U.S. market share in that country. In their letter, led by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), the members focused on a key issue for congressional leadership – jobs.

“For almost two decades, more than 90% of Colombian products have enjoyed open and duty-free access to American markets. At the same time, U.S. exports to Colombia face steep tariffs as high as 20%,” the letter states. “This inequity has resulted in lost opportunities for American businesses and lost jobs for Americans.”

Colombia is the largest market for U.S. wheat in South America, with a U.S. market share typically around 70% and sales last year valued at $225 million. However, leading competitors like Canada and Argentina are poised to take more of the market due in large part to more favorable trade preferences, say NAWG officials.

Wheat from Argentina already enters duty free and Canada will soon be ratifying a free trade agreement with the country, says NAWG. Colombia is also working on a free trade agreement with the European Union. In July, U.S. Wheat sponsored a trade team including Colombian wheat buyers and millers. The team told the media, the Obama administration officials and congressional offices that U.S. wheat sales to their country would likely drop by more than 50% if a pending free trade agreement isn’t ratified soon.

A copy of the letter is available at http://hastings.house.gov/Read.aspx?ID=1311.
More on the Colombia agreement’s importance to the wheat industry.