The Subcommittee on Trade of the House Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing on the pending free trade agreement with Panama on Wednesday. According to Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas the hearing will address the economic benefits this agreement will bring to American businesses, farmers, workers, consumers, and the U.S. economy.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the Panamanian agreement, which is the smallest of the pending free trade agreements, needs a few finishing touches before it is ready to be submitted to Congress.
"The big opportunity in trade right now is the Korean Free Trade Agreement; a $1.9 billion additional opportunity for American agriculture," Vilsack said. "When you combine that with what we are already doing in Korea, it will have the impact of being greater than all nine previous free trade agreements in ag, so our focus is on getting that done."
Several members of Congress and other groups have been pushing for all the free trade agreements to be sent to Congress in a single package. Vilsack says that is not a wise choice.
"The concern that I have is that some basically want to tie all of this together in one effort," Vilsack said. "Frankly what you do is empower the negotiators on the other side of the Colombian and Panamanian agreements to be a little tougher because they know there is a greater urgency to get Korea done."
The hearing on the Panamanian FTA will be held at 2:00 p.m. EDT on March 30, 2011. Panama's tax transparency as well as the national security and geopolitical implications of the agreement will also be examined by the subcommittee.