Free Trade Agreements

Free Trade AgreementsIt is a common perception that nothing ever gets accomplished in Washington, DC. When it comes to international trade, however, this perception is not true. They have been remarkably productive in the area of trade legislation. You might have missed the news lately, but the activity in DC has attracted the attention of the mainstream news media.

The passage of three free trade agreements has been the highlight of events. The president has recently signed trade agreements with the countries of South Korea, Panama and Columbia. All three of these agreements are similar to the structure of the other contemporary free trade agreements like the DR-CAFTA agreements. While these three agreements may be similar to the other contemporary free trade agreements, each agreement incorporates a few of its own unique qualities. The details of the implementing legislation can be found at the U.S. Government Printing Office by logging onto to www.gpo.gov. If you’re interested in the full text of each agreement, you can log onto www.ustr.gov for the US Trade Representative’s website.

All three of these agreements permit implementation on or after January 1, 2012. The details for full implementation are pending.

The three trade agreements gathered most of the news media attention, however, there was a fourth piece of legislation passed. The fourth piece of legislation and the FTAs has incorporated details that are worth taking note of for the trade:

  • Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act—This is the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act. It is meant to provide relief to workers, firms, communities, and farmers who have been affected negatively by trade. You can find out more details about it at the Government Printing Office website.
  • GSP Reinstated—This is generally associated with the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act. It was a provision which reinstated the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program retroactive to January 1, 2011. Any entries presented since January 1 that have been properly coded with GSP indicator of “A” automatically began receiving duty refunds beginning November 5, 2011 under the terms of the legislation. If you are an importer who did not claim the duty preference program, you will need to file post entry amendments in order to obtain this refund.
  • MPF Increased—This is also associated with the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act. It was an increase in the merchandise processing fee (MFP) charged on imported shipments from 0.21% to 0.3464%. The minimum amount of $25 and maximum amount of $485 will remain unchanged. The US/Korea FTA will extend the application of the MPF through the year 2021.
  • ATPA Reinstated—A renewal of the Andean Trade Preference Act was incorporated into the US/Columbian FTA. This is retroactive to February, 2011 when the agreement lapsed. You can visit www.cbp.gov for information in obtaining refunds for eligible entries made during the lapse period.

Even though the general assumption may be that nothing ever happens in DC, this seems to be untrue in the area international trade.


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