WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said on April 20 that it is encouraged with the U.S. administration’s recent announcements that a free trade agreement (FTA) has been reached with Panama and that they established a pathway to resolve remaining issues with Colombia. These developments will clear the way for ratification of both trade deals in the near future.

USGC President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas C. Dorr said, “The recent momentum on trade is very encouraging for U.S. agriculture. We hope to see this momentum continue to where the U.S. could have bilateral agreements formally in place with Colombia, Panama and Korea by mid summer, if not before.”

The three trade agreements are critical components of U.S. competitiveness in the international marketplace, offering immediate duty-free or preferential treatment for U.S. coarse grains exports of and most U.S. agricultural commodities.

“The administration should be commended for working with the Panamanian and Colombian governments to resolve outstanding issues,” said USGC Chairman Terry Vinduska. “The U.S. continues to face competitive challenges from other grain exporting nations. These agreements will hopefully restore a more level playing field in these critical markets for U.S. coarse grain exports.”

The three agreements offer potential gains of over $2.4 billion in U.S. agricultural exports. The council said it believes these gains are critical not only to accomplish President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015 but also in generating a significant increase in both U.S. jobs and income.

Vinduska added, “U.S. farmers are hopeful the Administration and Congress can complete ratification of all FTAs by July 1, 2011, in order for them to be implemented as soon as possible.”

Completion of the FTAs will also free up consideration of other vital trade programs such as the Trade Adjustment Assistance program and the extension of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.

“Ratification of these agreements will enhance the creditability of the U.S. with its global trading partners on the overall trade agenda,” said Vinduska.