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US-Colombia

On 27 February 2006, the United States and Colombia reached a Trade Promotion Agreement whose negative impacts were immediately subjected to severe criticism by civil society. The perks granted to the US by the new FTA, especially concerning agriculture and national treatment, rapidly became public knowledge.

One controversial provision concerned quotas on “special” agricultural products that are allowed to enter Colombia in limited quantities without tariffs from the very first year of the FTA; these quotas were increased at the signing of the agreement. Furthermore, the US insisted on Colombia’s acceptance of beef from cows over 30 months, a latent animal and human health risk due to the possible entry of “mad cow” infected animals.

The agreement was approved by the Colombian Congress over the opposition of the Polo Democrático Alternativo and the Colombian Liberal Party. The U.S. Congress later emerged as its chief opponent, rejecting the treaty after the Democratic Party won majorities in both houses and adopted a more aggressive stance on Bush administration policies.

The Democrats argued that the Uribe government had not done enough to curtail the paramilitaries’ crimes against humanity. Colombia, they said, should first put an end to violence against trade unionists and peasants, and indict politicians implicated in the “paragate” scandal (collusion with the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces and with drug trafficking mafias).

A vote on the deal was put off in April 2008 after President Bush sent the corresponding bill to Congress despite a recommendation against this move on the part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi sought a change to the House rules to prevent the fast-track timetable from kicking in.

In Colombia, opposition has remained firm in recent years, with various sectors mobilizing heavily to resist the FTA. The most recent large-scale mobilization was the “Minga,” in which indigenous people from all over the country traveled thousands of kilometers to Bogotá to reject the FTA, among other demands. Many other sectors of Colombian society signed on to the indigenous mobilization.

Despite the continuing resistance, the Colombian government benefitting from an improved image under President Santos (even though the policies and problems of the Uribe administration persist) won the approval for its FTA with the United States from the US Congress on 10 October 2011. It entered into force on 15 May 2012. Putting this FTA into motion required the approval of more than 15 regulations in the form of laws or decrees to bring Colombia legislation into line with the FTA on issues such as intellectual property, safeguards and tariffs.

last update: May 2012


US union tells Clinton Colombian colleagues face ’elevated threat’
US labor union United Steelworkers sent Hillary Clinton an "emergency alert" Friday warning Secretary of State that Colombian unionists are under an "elevated threat" after Washington approved a free trade deal between the two countries.
US-Colombia FTA to be signed in days: Adviser to Obama
The US Free Trade Agreement with Colombia will be signed into law within days, according to the US President’s senior adviser on Latin America.
Colombia not ready for US, EU FTAs: Agriculture minister
Colombia’s Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo said Monday the country is not prepared for the effects of the free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union.
Canada travellers to face US surcharge from US-Colombia trade pact
"Assuming this free-trade agreement gets passed, this will increase imports from Colombia to the United States ... and Canada will pay for the cost of Colombian goods shipped to the US," said Birgit Matthiesen, a US-based adviser for the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, a Canadian business lobby.
CWA: Colombia free trade agreement is a flawed plan, will not improve workers’ lives in Colombia
Communications Workers of America calls on Congress to reject the US-Colombia FTA
Study: Colombia anti-union violence undeterred
A new study challenges claims from the administration of President Barack Obama that Colombia is making important strides in bringing to justice killers of labor activists and so deserves U.S. congressional approval of a long-stalled free trade pact.
The pending US-Colombia free trade agreement: False claims versus hard realities
Corporate leaders and US and Colombian government officials with their public relations operatives are peddling lie after lie to justify passage of the US-Colombia FTA. This guide will help people counter the falsehoods in the coming weeks.
US wants FTA with Colombia while human rights deterioration culminates in massacre
While the United States considers a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia, the human rights situation in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia has deteriorated dramatically, culminating on the 17th of August with a massacre in the township of El Dorado.
Two more banana workers murdered in Colombia as free trade agreement is debated in DC
The assassination of two more banana workers’ union members underscored the weakness of the “Labor Action Plan” by which the government of Colombia has promised, as a side agreement to the US FTA, to end the decades-long violent assault on the labor movement.
Saying no to the Colombia free trade agreement
On July 11th, over 200 people converged in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. All were there to raise their voices to President Obama to say “NO” to the proposed US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).