Acting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner and U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab are leading a congressional delegation to Colombia Nov. 2-4 as part of the Administration's efforts to help educate members of Congress about the progress being made to advance democracy and human rights in Colombia and the importance of our free trade agreement with this strong Latin American ally.

"Obvious trade benefits for U.S. agricultural producers in this $870 million a year market will be achieved through immediate elimination of variable tariffs with half our exports entering duty-free as soon as the agreement is implemented and most tariffs phased out in 15 years, all by 19 years," said Conner.

"In turn, Colombia, our largest South American trade partner will gain permanent market access to U.S. markets and benefit from trade capacity building programs that will greatly enhance Colombia's ability to participate in the global marketplace."

"The Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) provides a historic opportunity to deepen and strengthen economic ties with one of the United States' staunchest allies in the Western hemisphere," said Ambassador Schwab. "Members of Congress need to see first-hand the impressive gains Colombia has made in recent years in curtailing violence and creating economic opportunities. I am confident the more lawmakers know about this country's courageous move toward democracy and open trade, the more they will see how this agreement with benefit the people of both countries."

The CTPA will eliminate tariffs and other barriers to goods and services, promote economic growth, and expand trade between the United States and Colombia. It will level the economic playing field for U.S. farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers who have faced barriers to Colombia's market while Colombia has enjoyed duty-free access to the U.S. market under trade preference programs.

The trip will provide members of Congress with a unique opportunity to learn about the government's success in bringing about stability and economic growth and how the CTPA will contribute to additional progress.

Schwab, Conner, and members of the congressional delegation will meet with President Alvaro Uribe, who has spearheaded efforts against paramilitary groups and drug traffickers and implementing market-oriented economic policies. They will meet with members of the business community and civil society, including union leaders, and demobilized combatants.

Background:

The United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement was signed on Nov. 22, 2006 in Washington, D.C. On June 28, 2007, the United States and Colombia signed a Protocol of Amendment revising the Agreement to reflect the bipartisan consensus on trade of May 10, 2007.

America's two-way trade with Colombia reached $16 billion in 2006, making Colombia our fifth largest trading partner in Latin America and our largest export market for U.S. agriculture products in South America. In 2006, total U.S. goods exports to Colombia reached $6.7 billion.

The CTPA will further open this dynamic and growing economy to American goods and services. It will provide particular benefits to U.S. farmers and ranchers by immediately eliminating Colombia's duties on high quality beef, cotton, wheat, soybeans, key fruits and vegetables, and many processed foods upon entry into force of the agreement.

The U.S. market is already open to imports from Colombia. In 2006, for example, 92 percent of U.S. imports from Colombia entered the United States duty-free under our most-favored nation tariff rates and various preference programs, such as the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The U.S.-Colombia trade agreement will give American businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers similar access to this important market.

This is the third trip by Members of Congress to Colombia led by Cabinet officials this fall. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez led two previous information-gathering visits.