Mr. Speaker, I urge rapid passage of this legislation to implement the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement. This agreement enjoys broad bipartisan support, and it is clear why: it levels the trade playing field between the U.S. and Panama; it is good for U.S. companies, workers, and farmers; and it advances our national security and leadership in the Western hemisphere.
Right now, Panama enjoys almost total duty-free access to the U.S. market because it is a beneficiary of various trade preference programs. Given the importance of a stable and prosperous Panama, giving Panama this market access is warranted. However, U.S. industrial and consumer products going to Panama face an average duty of seven percent, and U.S. agricultural exports face an average tariff of 15 percent. Implementing this agreement will level the playing field for U.S. exporters by drastically reducing or ending Panama’s tariffs on U.S. goods. Most U.S. consumer and industrial products will immediately become duty free, as will half of U.S. farm exports. Any remaining tariffs will decrease quickly thereafter.
Opening Panama’s market will be a boon for U.S. companies, workers, and farmers. The Panamanian economy is rapidly growing and is expected to more than double by 2020. Panama is already one of the largest markets for some U.S. exporters and services firms. The importance of Panama will only grow for these firms and others as we gain greater access to this expanding economy. This is also true for our farmers, whose exports to Panama are expected to significantly increase under the agreement. Not only will American farmers benefit from lower tariffs into Panama, they will also benefit from the removal of non-tariff and regulatory barriers that discriminate against U.S. agricultural products. Best of all, the agreement will create new jobs and greater prosperity in the United States without adding to the deficit.