WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — While the U.S. has finally approved the Colombia, Panama and South Korea free trade agreements (FTAs), the long delay in achieving U.S. ratification continues to produce fallout, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said on Nov. 17.

In South Korea, critics say the pact could threaten South Korea’s national interests, and opposition party members are attempting to block a vote in the parliament. Opposition is coming from South Korea’s auto industry and farmers, who fear a flood of U.S. farm exports.

South Korea’s president said he will seek to renegotiate a provision that gives foreign investors the right to have international arbitrators hear a dispute in South Korea, and he has made a rare trip to parliament this week to argue for a vote.

Meanwhile, Kurt Shultz, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) regional director, reported U.S. market share in the Caribbean Basin continues to suffer as South American exports’ growing advantage in Colombia spilled over to a number of other markets in the region.

“The primary destinations for South American corn in order of volume are Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and now Panama,” Shultz said. “In 2010, corn imports from South America totaled 4 million tonnes (157 million bushels) in the region, and we expect their sales to be the same or stronger this year. A tremendous amount of work still needs to be done as our market share in the region is still under attack.”

As an example, Shultz noted that Panama had its first shipment of South American corn at the end of 2010 and has continued importing from South America this year.

“Colombia is the primary driver in this situation,” Shultz said. “All of this highlights the need for the United States to work urgently to implement the Colombia FTA. If the process takes more than a year, U.S. farmers and exporters will continue to suffer market losses in the region.”

To facilitate the implementation of this legislation, Wendell Shauman, USGC chairman, Bart Schott, chairman of the National Corn Grower’s Association, and council directors Chris Corry and Floyd Gaibler will be traveling to Columbia on Nov. 27.