In a release this week from the National Corn Growers Association, the organization praises work by the U.S. Grains Council, USDA and the US. Trade Representative to "avert a patently protectionist seasonal market closure in Panama."
NCGA's Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team Chair Jim Zimmerman comments: "U.S. corn farmers increasingly understand the importance of working diligently to maintain all markets for our product both at home and abroad. The determined efforts of farmers, through the Council, and of our government have resulted ina real victory that will allow this valuable market to remain open for U.S. corn exports to stay on track."
The challenge began in September, when the Panamanian government published rules governing quota administration for U.S. corn exports under the Panama-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The government exercised a loophole in the FTA and closed the market to import of corn from January through April 2014. The time period coincides with the harvest of local corn and was viewed by U.S. officials as an effort to subvert the FTA to protect local corn producers and force the Panamanian feed industry to buy local corn.
The Grains Council, of which NCGA is a founding member, alerted USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative's office of this move and outlined how this action restricted and was burdensome to trade between Panama and the United States. A combined effort by U.S. officials, the Council and Panamanian industry led to the Panamanian government issuing a new resolution removing any restrictions on U.S. corn imports for 2014.
NCGA notes that under the FTA, Panama will import 12.4 million bushels of U.S. corn in 2014 with an export value of $63 million.