Approval of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on Dec. 11 creates an immediate duty-free market and a level "playing field" for U.S. suppliers of motor vehicle products, according to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). The U.S.-Chile FTA also will serve as an important building block toward opening all South American markets to U.S. automotive product suppliers as negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) enter their most active phase. "The U.S.-Chile FTA will provide immediate benefits to MEMA members - U.S. manufacturers of motor vehicle components, chemicals, tools and equipment, and related products", said Chris Bates, president and CEO of MEMA. "Tariffs will be eliminated as soon as the agreement takes effect, allowing U.S. suppliers to export to Chile on terms equivalent to their leading international competitors. Further, the luxury tax on certain vehicles will be phased out steadily over four years, improving the export prospects of U.S. vehicle assemblers, whose products contain our members components," he added.The agreement, which will be submitted to the U.S. Congress for review early next year under the new Trade Promotion Authority (formerly known as "fast track") procedures approved earlier this year, also includes important protection for U.S. patents and trade secrets, exceeding past trade agreements. It establishes a more secure, predictable legal framework for U.S. investors in Chile."The U.S.-Chile agreement offers new momentum to the broader FTAA negotiations for a hemisphere-wide free trade area. Chile's commitment to open markets and its record of economic success through trade liberalization and economic deregulation will set a very positive tone for our broader FTAA talks," Bates added.