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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
Photo: Public Citizen

Death squads, murder and US corruption in Colombia
News broke this week that Francisco Santos, who served as Colombia’s VP under President Alvaro Uribe from 2002 to 2010, met three times with leaders of the right-wing paramilitary organization known as the AUC. That Santos, who openly urged AUC death squads to carry out killings, was the standard bearer for Colombia’s FTA lobbying efforts is emblematic of what the FTA is all about.
Ex-GM workers in Colombia sew lips shut in protest
The former GM workers chose the grounds next to the US Embassy to stage their hunger strike because of the labor action plan agreed to between Colombia and the US last year under the countries’ free trade agreement — which both governments, and General Motors, have igored.
Assault on Colombian trade unions continues
Two months after a free trade agreement between the US and Colombia went into effect, workers continue to face attacks.
Two suits challenge copyright law under US-Colombia FTA
Colombia’s Constitutional Court will hear two suits challenging the new copyright law under the country’s free trade agreement with the United States, local media reported Tuesday.
USA-Colombia Free Trade Agreement worries poultry producers
The Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the USA is going through, freeing Colombian exports from Washington politics. Colombian poultry producers appear to have pulled the wrong straw, however.
Colombia-US: Trade deal "Throws country into jaws of multinationals," critics say
The entry into force of Colombia’s free trade agreement with the United States was met by student protests and opposition from a segment of the business community, small farmers, and trade unionists.
’Gringo superpigs’ threaten Colombia’s pork trade: Report
The new FTA with the U.S. will bring "gringo superpigs" to Colombia, threatening the country’s domestic pork trade, newspaper Diario Del Huila claimed Wednesday.
Obama approves Colombia FTA —despite continued anti-labor violence
At the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, US President Barack Obama announced approval of Colombia’s supposed progress in protecting labor rights, allowing the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to take effect next month. US trade representative Ron Kirk said at a Cartagena press conference that the agreement provides "an opportunity to help stand up for the rights of workers... This is a significant milestone."
Obama certifies Colombia labor plan, clearing trade pact
President Barack Obama certified Colombia’s labor protection efforts, allowing both sides to put the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement into effect May 15.
AFL-CIO declaration issued to re-examine Colombia FTA on worker rights
The United Steelworkers, the AFL-CIO and the Colombia labor movement firmly believes the US pronouncement that Colombia has complied with the Labor Action Plan — a move which will allow for implementation of the Free Trade Agreement starting next month — is premature as unionists continue to be killed in Colombia at a rate of 30 slain in 2011, and six already this year.