The United States is narrowing the gap between what it buys from other countries and what it sells overseas, says Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“And agriculture is leading the way,” Siddiqui said at the recent Southwest Ag Issues Summit in Austin.

The Summit, sponsored by the Southwest Council of Agribusiness and the Texas Ag Forum, featured a who’s who of experts representing government, industry, farm organizations and university research and Extension, among others, discussing critical farm policy issues.

Ambassador Siddiqui discussed free trade agreements, the Brazil cotton case, new partnerships and Russia’s entry into the World trade Organization.

The three most recent free trade agreements, Panama, Colombia and Korea, he said, will improve agriculture’s access to markets. “Two of these — Korea and Colombia — are already in place,” Siddiqui said. “We are still negotiating the final details with Panama and should be finished by the end of the year.”

He said agriculture will benefit by more than $2 billion from the three agreements. “But we have some lost ground to make up with Colombia.”

He said the agreements will reduce tariffs significantly.

He also noted that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, consisting of the United States and eight Asian Pacific countries — Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — will enhance trade when barriers are removed.

He said the Brazil cotton case remains something of a quandary. An interim agreement has forestalled retaliation.