U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala says CAFTA-DR bolstered free, open trade
U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Stephen G. McFarland spoke of the important trade relationship between the United States and Guatemala to more than 200 U.S. farmers and agribusiness representatives at the U.S. Grains Council's 6th International Marketing Conference and 49th Annual Membership Meeting in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Ambassador McFarland said Guatemala is facing many challenges with its basic infrastructure that need attention and repair. This includes expanding the network of roads, increasing the capacity of its ports and diversifying energy sources. He said the challenges are many, but the Central America/Dominican Republic free trade agreement with the United States is one success story.
"Despite these challenges, one bright spot is CAFTA-DR, to which Guatemala is a signatory. Since CAFTA-DR implementation began in 2006, Guatemala has taken advantage of the opportunities inherent in this agreement," said Ambassador McFarland. "The CAFTA-DR agreement has obliged its members to improve transparency and bolster investor protection, and has catalyzed needed reforms in areas such as customs administration, intellectual property rights and government regulation."
He said CAFTA-DR, in just three years, has "increased trade among signatory countries significantly." In the first 11 months of 2008, for example, total U.S. agricultural and food exports to CAFTA-DR countries hit $34 billion, which is up nearly 36 percent from the same period the previous year. U.S. feed grain exports were up nearly 42 percent with an export value of approximately $735 million. Ambassador McFarland said U.S. feed grain exports to Guatemala were up 42 percent with a value of more than $146 million. Under CAFTA-DR, more than half of U.S. agricultural exports enter Guatemala duty-free and remaining tariffs will be eliminated on nearly all products by 2020.
"The major market for U.S. grains in Guatemala will continue to be yellow corn, which is the primary ingredient for the animal feed industry. Livestock and poultry production in the region is on the upswing. The U.S. will continue to be the main agricultural trading partner for CAFTA-DR countries given our geographical proximity, historical ties and competitive advantage in agricultural production," he said. "I am confident your (USGC members) efforts at this conference will contribute to the bolstering of U.S. exports of high quality and price competitive grains to our trading partners."
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