How to Benefit from Free Trade Agreements

By: Melissa Scott

Many of you are probably aware that three free trade agreements (FTAs) were approved in October, 2011 – South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The U.S. – Korea FTA became effective March 15, 2012, and the U.S. – Colombia FTA became effective on May 15, 2012. Panama is targeted to enter into force by the end of 2012.

As soon as Free Trade Agreements are published in the Federal Register, the Census Bureau’s, Foreign Trade Division hits the ground running to implement all of the necessary program changes to ensure the U.S. trade statistics capture FTA related trade as soon as possible. This is approximately 40 to 42 days after the end of the statistical month.

Interestingly enough, following the U.S. – Korea agreement, April imports from South Korea were the highest on record at $5.5 billion. For more detailed information about the most current import and export statistics on South Korea, and all U.S. trading partners, go to USATradeOnline.

Another great resource that can help answer your questions about how the U.S.- Korea and other trade agreements can benefit you is the FTA Tariff Tool! The FTA Tariff Tool combines tariff and trade data into a simple and easy-to-search interface. Key features of using the tool include:

  • FTA Tariff Information – This tariff search tool allows users to find tariff information on specific ‘industrialized goods’ covered under the U.S. FTAs. U.S. importers and exporters can see the tariff applied on the date the FTA enters into force, and the rates each subsequent year as the tariffs are reduced or eliminated altogether under the agreement. Products are searchable by Harmonized System (HS) codes. If you do not know your products HS code, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Schedule B Search Engine can help you determine your HS code by allowing you to search by keyword or product description.
  • Market Access Reports – This tool provides users with the ability to determine the levels of new market access presented under various U.S. FTAs. Users can search various industrial sectors or product groups and see the amount of trade or products assigned to the various duty-elimination categories as negotiated under the agreement.
  • FTA Tariff and Trade Snapshot – Users can obtain a snapshot of current tariff rates and trade under the various U.S. FTAs. Using this tool, users can search by industrial sector or HS chapter and drill down for more detailed product information.

A current limitation to the FTA Tariff Tool is that it covers only “industrial good” products. Work is ongoing to add agricultural and textile products to future versions of the Tariff database.

Ultimately, these resources can help you calculate appropriate pricing for your product, identify new markets, and take full advantage of the U.S. trade agreements!

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