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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

Ohio’s senators disagree on Colombian trade pact
Sen. Sherrod Brown, a longtime critic of trade pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, last week assailed the new agreement between the Obama administration and Colombia, charging that "it merely represents another example of Washington being out-of-touch with concerns and values of most Americans."
AFL-CIO remains opposed to Colombia trade deal
"We have no doubt that if 51 CEOs had been murdered in Colombia last year, this deal would be on a very slow track indeed," says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
USW joins Colombian unions in opposition to proposed FTA
The United Steelworkers is both disappointed and outraged to learn that the Obama Administration has apparently reached an agreement with Colombia over a free trade agreement.
US-Colombia deal on labour rights met with scepticism
Largely hailed by Republican lawmakers, the preliminary details of the deal, dubbed an "Action Plan for Labour Rights", were received sceptically by some Democrat representatives, while labour and rights groups noted that they lacked breadth, depth, and accountability measures.
Dow applauds progress on US-Colombia free trade agreement
The agreement will remove 90% of current tariffs assessed to Dow’s more than $200 million in American manufactured goods exported to Colombia.
US, Colombia reach deal on key free trade pact
The United Steelworkers called news of the amended Colombia pact "devastating" and said they, as well as the AFL-CIO, would continue to oppose the deal.
Colombia is said to reach labor deal with US to advance trade agreement
Colombia and the US may announce a deal as soon as today on measures clearing the way for a stalled free-trade agreement, according to six people familiar with the talks.
US close to deal with Colombia on trade pact
The Obama administration has resolved the remaining barriers to a free-trade agreement with Colombia and expects to announce a deal by the end of the week, according to people briefed on the process.
Why only the US-Colombia FTA gets so much press
The FTA is seen as a prize to be won for Colombia — a favor from the US government.
HRW celebra iniciativa para vincular TLC con Colombia a derechos humanos
El grupo de defensa de los derechos humanos Human Rights Watch celebró hoy la iniciativa presentada por seis miembros del Congreso de EE.UU. para vincular la ratificación del TLC con Colombia a mejoras en los estándares de derechos humanos.