WASHINGTON, DC — November 20, 2003 — “The Bush Administration’s announcement that it will pursue a free-trade pact with the Andean nations is great news for consumers and producers in the U.S., Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru,” said Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), commenting on the recent proposal by U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick.

“It will save U.S. consumers millions of dollars in reduced tariffs and other import costs on key food products such as asparagus, bananas, coffee, mangoes, onions and shallots,” he said, “while boosting U.S. exports and the economies of the four Andean nations.” In 2002, the U.S. imposed $170 million in duties on all Andean imports, according to the International Trade Commission.

“Tariffs and trade barriers are a hidden tax on consumers wherever they are imposed.” Hammonds said. “Food retailers and wholesalers are deeply committed to delivering value and variety to consumers worldwide.”

The U.S. currently imports $9.8 billion in products from the Andean nations, which represent a $7 billion market for U.S. exporters.

Hammonds added, “We regard this initiative as an excellent step toward our ultimate goal of creating a Free Trade Agreement for the Americas, embracing 34 nations from Point Barrow to Tierra del Fuego with 800 million people and a combined gross domestic product of more than $11 trillion.”