The U.S. Grains Council believes in this partnership and has cultivated it for many years through offices in the Americas and by working with USDA to offer training, technical assistance and capacity building throughout the region. While the Council is encouraged by the President’s commitment in the Americas, it remains incomplete.

Trade should not be held captive to politics. In an open market system, trade responds to need and competitive advantage. As Venezuela remains a top export destination for U.S. grains, grain market share in Colombia is now less than 25 percent from a high of almost 90 percent in 2008, a loss of almost $500 million in sales and countless jobs. Colombia already enjoys duty-free access for its exports to the United States and a true partnership would put the United States on equal trade terms with Colombia. From the steps of Chile’s Presidential Palace, the President committed to getting both the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements completed and to continue to engage in a constructive dialogue with leadership on changing the U.S./Cuban political status quo.

These initiatives will help restore the competitive advantage and true partnership in the Americas, both of which have suffered from years of political infighting in the United States. The Council applauds President Obama’s commitment to these critical components of the U.S./Latin America partnership. The Council looks forward to definitive action in the near future, and to strengthening ties with our Latin American partners.