November 17,2005

Grassley Urges Colombia to Offer New Agricultural Proposals in Andean FTA Negotiations

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, has urged Colombia’s chief trade negotiator to offer new agricultural proposals in negotiations of the United States-Andean Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and cited concern that Colombia’s restrictive agricultural proposals to date could endanger the success of the negotiations.

The text of Grassley’s letter follows.

November 16, 2005

Ambassador Hernando Jose Gomez
Chief Negotiator
Ministry of Foreign Trade
Calle 28, No. 13A-15
Floor 5
Bogota, Colombia

Dear Ambassador Gomez:

I enjoyed speaking with you last month concerning the negotiations of the U.S.-Andean Free TradeAgreement (FTA). Following up on our meeting, I would like to express some of my concernsregarding the agricultural talks between the United States and Colombia that are taking place withinthe Andean FTA negotiations.

As we discussed, market access provided to U.S. agricultural products under an FTA between theUnited States and Colombia must be, at a minimum, as good as access provided in the United States-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and on some products, the United States isexpecting CAFTA-plus access. Unfortunately, Colombian proposals on corn, soybeans, pork, andbeef – all of which are major Iowa products – appear to be CAFTA-minus.

I am concerned that Colombia is continuing to press for the ability to utilize domestic purchaserequirements, price bands, price-based agricultural safeguards, and agricultural export subsidies. Theuse of these measures by Colombia would not lead to liberalized trade between the United States andColombia, but would in fact impede trade.

Colombia is requesting base tariff rates on certain products, including corn and pork, that are higherthan those applied in recent years under the Andean price bands. Instead of providing preferentialaccess by lowering applied tariffs while moving toward free trade, Colombia’s proposals are insteadsanctioning higher tariffs.

I am also concerned about Colombian proposals for tariff rate quotas (TRQs). In some instances,Colombia is proposing in-quota quantities in TRQs on certain products, such as corn, that do noteven reflect current imports. With regard to soybeans, soybean meal, and soybean flour, Colombiais proposing TRQs although U.S. competitors are already enjoying unlimited duty-free access. TheseTRQs would impede efforts of U.S. soybean producers to compete with other soybean exporters inthe Colombian market even though the United States would have entered into an FTA withColombia.

Similarly, U.S. producers should receive at least the same market access opportunities as farmers inother countries that have free trade agreements with Colombia. For example, U.S. pork shouldreceive, at a minimum, the same tariff treatment provided to Chilean producers under Colombia’sFTA with Chile.

In addition, Colombia’s proposal in the area of sanitary and phytosanitary measures unnecessarilygoes beyond the text of the CAFTA. I note as well that I remain concerned with Colombia’sscientifically unjustified ban on the importation of U.S. beef.

We share the goal of seeing the United States and Colombia conclude an FTA. Withoutimprovements in Colombia’s agricultural offers, however, I will be unable to support the Agreement.I encourage you to continue working with U.S. negotiators to reach terms on agriculture that areacceptable to both countries.


Charles E. Grassley