U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised the free trade agreement with Panama going into effect today. The Cantwell-backed deal dispenses with onerous tariffs on U.S. products.
Starting today, Panamanian tariffs on agricultural products important to Washington's economy will be eliminated. Those include a 1 percent tariff on cherries, a 2 percent tariff on apples, and a 5 percent tariff on pears. A 20 percent tariff on frozen potato products and a 15 percent tariff on other potato products will be phased out over five years.
Panama is a growing, lucrative market for Washington exports. In 2010 Washington state sold $315 million worth of products there. The new agreement is expected to increase the sale of Washington's agricultural products like fruit and wheat to Panama by nearly a million dollars per year. The U.S. potato industry has estimated that the Panama Free Trade Agreement could increase exports of frozen fries by $10 million nationwide. Washington is the second largest producer of potatoes behind Idaho. In 2011, Washington state exported 675 metric tons of fresh potatoes to Panama.
"Today marks a big win for Washington state's farmers and our trade economy," said Cantwell. "The apples, pears and cherries Washington farmers export to Panama no longer face burdensome tariffs. This agreement will support jobs in Washington and across the nation."
The free trade agreement (FTA) with Panama is the last of three trade agreements -- with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama enacted into law last October -- to go into effect. Cantwell consistently championed the passage of the FTAs through her role on the Senate Finance Committee. She helped secure passage in the Senate after the deals passed the House on three separate votes. The American Farm Bureau estimates that the increased market opportunities for Washington state under these trade agreements could increase direct exports by $52.8 million per year and add hundreds of jobs to the state economy.