The recent free trade agreement (FTA) between the U.S. and Panama is projected to take effect sometime this month.

Panama's legislature this week approved the last of four bills that must pass before the FTA can be implemented. The Panamanian government also needs to sign an executive decree that would adjust the way Panama administers its tariff-rate quotas for agricultural products in order to bring it into compliance with its FTA obligations.

The U.S.-Panama agreement is the last of the three bilateral FTAs approved by Congress last year. Enhancing and expanding foreign market opportunities is a key priority for the American Soybean Association, and ASA has worked extensively to see agreements like the one with Panama put into force.

Upon implementation of the agreement, more than half of current U.S. farm exports to Panama will become duty-free immediately and the most of the remaining tariffs will be eliminated within 15 years.

Specifically, Panama will lock in duty-free treatment for U.S. exports of both soybeans and soybean meal immediately. The tariff on soybean oil will be phased out within 15 years.

Panama will also immediately eliminate duties on high quality beef, frozen turkeys, sorghum, corn oil, almost all fruit products, wheat, peanuts, whey, cotton and many processed products. The agreement also provides duty-free tariff rate quotas on standard beef cuts, chicken leg quarters, pork, corn, rice, and dairy products.