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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

Activists protest possible Colombia trade deal
Religious and peace activists are demanding that President Obama keep a campaign promise to oppose a trade deal with a South American nation.
Critics call trade pact lose-lose deal for Colombian labour
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US florists join Asocolflores in trade deal push
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California fighting back on Colombia free trade act
California, with its 53 Members of Congress, is key to stopping these FTAs and protecting worker power both in the US and abroad.
Chiquita & the Colombia FTA — Murder in the interest of profit
Recent documents obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University from the US Justice Department show that Chiquita Brands International, in direct contradiction of the claims of both Chiquita and the US government for many years, made illegal payments to both guerrilla groups and then AUC death squads over the course of about 14 years in return for security from these groups.
Congress poised to pass Colombia deal: Baucus
A top senator said on Wednesday he expected Congress to soon pass a free trade agreement with Colombia despite the continued strong opposition of the largest U.S. labor group.
Trading away financial stability: Capital controls and the US-Colombia trade agreement
Kevin Gallagher demonstrates that the "reworked" US-Colombia agreement has not been reworked to reflect the need to ensure that nations have the ability to prevent and mitigate financial crises.
Colombian free trade deal ignores violence, faces Colombian resistance
Congress is poised to ratify a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia in spite of vehement opposition both here in the US and in Colombia.
Colombia: workers, students protest FTA, privatization
In Colombia’s largest demonstration since President Juan Manuel Santos took office last August, tens of thousands of unionists, students and teachers demonstrated throughout the country on April 7 to protest a free trade agreement with the US and proposed changes in the education system that they say will lead to privatization.
Colombia deal could go to US Congress in weeks
The White House could send a free trade pact with Colombia to Congress for approval within weeks now that a bilateral agreement on labor concerns has been reached, a top US official said on Monday.