Nearly five years after the Bush administration first negotiated free
trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, revised
versions of those pacts were finally approved by the U.S. Congress last
fall and will be implemented during 2012.
Although global companies reacted with an anti-climactic sense of
relief, trade analysts welcomed the new opportunities that the pacts
will open for U.S. exporters in 2012. Like other U.S. free trade
agreements, the new pacts won't just eliminate tariffs that raise the
prices on many U.S. exports to those countries; they will also gradually
eliminate non-tariff barriers that make U.S. products harder, or more
expensive, to export. Equally important, the pacts will expand trade
opportunities for U.S. exporters by requiring stricter protection of
their intellectual property in those foreign markets.
Like other trade pacts, the provisions will be a two-way street --
opening markets and lowering costs for exports from those countries to