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Canada-Colombia

On 7 June 2008, Canada concluded free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Colombia. The Canadian government has pushed this agreement, stating that “Colombia is an established and growing market for Canadian exporters (e.g. wheat, pulses, barley, chemicals, paper products, and heavy equipment) and service providers (mining, oil and gas, engineering, information, and communication sectors), as well as a strategic destination for Canadian direct investments (mining, oil exploration, printing, and education).“

Canada has also said that the FTA will “promote a more stable and predictable investment environment in Colombia.“ Many Colombians and Canadians think otherwise, and believe that the investment and economic ramifications of the FTA will lead to more instability and increased human rights violations in a country already plagued with violence and conflict. Canadian mining interests, for example, will benefit greatly from equal treatment in the exploitation of Colombian natural resources. But in a country where trade unionists and labor activists are routinely threatened and murdered, many say that the involvement of Canadian business interests will only increase illegal persecution of those who struggle for fair working conditions and other labour-related causes. Mineral exploitation, such as that being developed in the town of Marmato by Canadian Colombia Goldfields, threatens the displacement of whole communities in order to facilitate mining, in a country already estimated to have between 1.8 and 3 million internally displaced people.

Canada-Colombia trade relations are nominal in comparison to other countries, barely surpassing $1 billion in trade each year. However, in terms of sectors engaged in megaprojects, such as mining or oil and gas, Canadian multinationals are among the major players.

Regarding Canada’s promotion of this FTA, Michael Hart, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa says, “It’s a political gesture [on behalf of the Harper government] toward an embattled government in Colombia.“ The question is whether Uribe’s government, with its civil war involving an all-out offensive on guerrilla groups, handshakes with paramilitaries, and the dirty war on trade unionists, the political left, and human rights defenders, is the kind of “embattled“ regime that Canada should be making friendly “gestures“ to.

There was no public draft text of the agreement to speak of, and the agreement was concluded without waiting for an assessment from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

There has been minimal media coverage and the majority of Canadians are unaware of the existence of this accord.

The agreement was signed by the Government of Canada on 21 November 2008 over strong criticism from the opposition parties and condemnation from Colombian civil society organizations. It came into force on 15 August 2011, providing important strategic value to the government of Colombia in terms of facilitating the ratification of its FTAs with the US and the EU.

last update: May 2012


Canada’s Gran Colombia Gold files $700 million lawsuit against Colombia over Marmato project
Canadian miner Gran Colombia Gold has filed a US$700 million lawsuit against Colombia under the Colombian-Canadian free trade agreement after the government ordered the company to cease operations at the El Burro site in Marmato.
Canada’s foreign policy fails to support human rights in Colombia
A new report Colombia in the Shadow of Human Right Abuses confirms that human rights violations have not abated over the four years since the implementation of the Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement
NDP: Harper gov’t report on human rights abuses in Colombia is a ’sham’
The New Democratic Party and civil society groups are accusing the Harper government of whitewashing human rights abuses in Colombia in the latest report to Parliament on the impact of Canada’s free trade agreement with the South American country.
Groups decry ’meaningless’ consultation in Canada-Colombia FTA human rights impact assessment process
This is the third time the Conservative government has attempted to produce an impact assessment of its 2011 FTA with Colombia, as required by law, and each time the final report has been completely inadequate.
Another non-report on human rights and free trade with Colombia
On June 14th, the Canadian government quietly tabled its second report on the human rights impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The report avoids any examination of the impact of Canadian investment — including oil, gas and mining – in Colombia.
Canadian human rights report on Colombia a ’sick joke’
The Canadian government’s human rights report tabled in Parliament Tuesday regarding implementation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement might as well have been a comic strip of three monkeys: "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
Human rights report on Colombia panned as ’whitewash’
Canada’s free trade deal with Colombia is again threatening to explode into controversy after the Conservative government released a report this week that was supposed to detail the agreement’s impact on Colombia’s human rights situation — but didn’t.
Camp says Canada-Colombia free trade puts US at disadvantage
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said a free-trade accord between Canada and Colombia that takes effect today puts the U.S. at a disadvantage and underscores the need to pass the nation’s own stalled agreements.
Harper in Colombia on free-trade deal ‘victory lap’
Stephen Harper pays a brief visit to Colombia Wednesday to celebrate the coming-into-force of a free trade agreement with Canada.
FTA with Canada operational within 3 months: Minister
Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin stated Monday that the free trade agreement between Colombia and Canada should be operational within the next two to three months.