The Panamanian government has announced its intentions to not allow import of U.S. corn from January through April 15, 2014, which the U.S. Grains Council claims is counter to the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement.

The Grains Council contends Panama is attempting to “exploit a loophole in the agreement.” There seemed to be no problem in 2013 as Panama did not restrict corn imports during any months, but 2014 is a different story.

Panama is attempting to protect its corn growers during the country’s harvest season. Panama prior to the FTA restricted imports during the months of contention. The Grains Council notes that domestic corn production is approximately 85,000 metric tons (3.3 million bushels) and annual imports total more than 350,000 metric tons (13.8 million bushels).

The Grains Council is hopeful that the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service can work with counterparts in Panama for resolution of the issue. The FTA outlines dispute resolution procedures. But nothing is going to happen for resolution while the U.S. government is shut down.