Official White House signing of the three free trade agreements for Korea, Colombia, and Panama is being scheduled for next week.  The three free trade agreements, once fully implemented will create 250,000 jobs and represent nearly $2.5 billion in new agriculture exports. This week, both the House and Senate passed, by sizable margins, implementing legislation for the free trade agreements.  While actual implementation may take several months to complete, administration officials are urging companies to prepare to take advantage of the preferential trade programs.

According to the International Trade Commission, the Colombia agreement will expand exports of U.S. goods alone by more than $1.1 billion while the Korea agreement promises to add $10 billion to annual merchandise exports to Korea.  While Panama is a smaller market, the Panama free trade agreement will eventually eliminate all tariffs on U.S. industrial and agricultural goods and will open Panama’s market to immediate duty-free status on 88 percent of U.S. commercial and industrial exports, and over 50 percent of U.S. farm exports, to Panama.  Duty free treatment on approximately 80 percent of qualifying imports into the U.S. from each of the three countries will also apply upon implementation.

In addition to the trade agreements, this week Congress also approved a reauthorization and extension of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) through July 31, 2013.  The renewal of these programs, which expired earlier this year, will also allow importers to recoup duties that have been paid on qualifying imports made since their expiration, provided a sufficient request for refunds providing eligibility is filed with U.S. Customs and Borders Protection within 180 days of when President Obama signs the act.  Moving forward, both Colombia and Panama will be removed as eligible countries under the ATPA and the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) programs once their respective free trade agreements enter into force.

In a joint statement released yesterday by the National Chicken Council, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, National Turkey Federation, and United Egg Producers, the organizations said  “U.S. poultry and egg producers, processors, and exporters are united in their strong support for the decisive passage and subsequent signing of legislation to implement free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. Our industries have supported and urged approval of these agreements since negotiations were concluded more than four years ago.   The future success of the U.S. poultry and egg industry heavily depends on continued expansion of exports. It is estimated that the three FTAs will generate almost $1.4 billion in additional U.S. poultry and egg export sales annually when the agreements are fully implemented. USDA calculates that the industry’s current annual exports of nearly $4.4 billion supports more than 50,400 U.S. jobs, and that each billion dollars in U.S. poultry and egg exports equates to about 11,525 American jobs.”