Log in Subscribe

Local Government Port Manatee Views Free Trade Future


BRADENTON --  At the Manatee Port Authority meeting Thursday, Commissioners got up-to-date on what the U.S. Free Trade Agreements (click to download powerpoint presentation) have to offer their new equipment and facilities. Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deep-water port to the Panama Canal, and a straight shot at that. So there's high expectations as to the impact Florida's "International Gateway" will bring, and with the region expanding their exports, free trade will be a market tool.

Sandra Campbell, Director, U.S. Commercial Service, Clearwater, brought in the playbook to U.S Free Trade Agreements. U.S. Commercial Services is a promotional arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. With offices in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries, they help companies get started in exporting or increasing sales to new global markets.

Americans whose jobs are supported by goods exports earn 13 to 18 percent more than the national average, and in 2010, the number of American jobs supported by the export sector were 9.2 million.

There are 17 countries currently engaged in a free trade agreement with the U.S., and two more are pending -- Colombia and Panama. Import/Export traffic, north and south between the Americas, is sure to increase in 2014 when the newly modified Panama Canal is finished. Many see this as becoming increasingly significant, the more the U.S. continues to get back in the manufacturing business.

On April 15, Barack Obama announced the U.S./Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement that will take effect May 15. Colombia's economy is the third largest in Central and South America. U.S. goods exports to Colombia were $14.3 billion, and with elimination of the current tariffs, economic growth for both countries is expected to grow. 

Colombia is expected to increase the amount of grains it now imports from the U.S., and the U.S. is expected to increase the amount of tropical fruits it brings in. Textiles have a two way street. Colombia buys the cotton from us and in return, sells us back the shirt. That does bring "labor rights" into play as an issue, and the agreements are said to be designed to approach those issues.

Currently, metals, machinery, transportation equipment, auto parts, building products, paper and consumer goods all have single to double digit percentage tariffs on them. All of those items will become tariff-free after May 15. This is expected to increase U.S. exports by more than $1.1 billion.

As always, one of the strongest arms to U.S. trade agreements is "intellectual property rights." The commitments to labor rights and protecting the environment maybe overstated, considering the controversial dialog going on in the U.S. around both of those issues.

Brazil, and Panama are the first two countries in all of the Americas to be experiencing financial promise and Colombia may be close behind. All three have been good traders with the U.S., and Port Manatee has been getting an increasing slice of that pie. 

Brazil, the leader in South American trade with the U.S., may be the strongest in two-way exchange of product and one of the four or five countries in the Americas to not have a free trade agreement with the U.S. All who work in and around the Florida International Gateway are likely to be the first to know what the free trade agreements will add up to.


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.