Andean countries, US start 12th round of talks on FTA
BOGOTA, Sept. 19 (Xinhuanet) — Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the United States on Monday began the 12th round of negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA), in an effort to put a deal in effect in 2006.
Negotiators are meeting at the northern tourist resort of Cartagena. Of the 24 panels, four have reached agreement, 11 are nearing their goals and eight are half-way through to a deal, according to officials.
Security has tightened for the dive-day talks in Cartagena, capital of Colombia’s Caribbean region of Boliva, with at least 5,000 agents being deployed around the venue to contain protesters who have threatened to block a final agreement.
Prior to the talks, Colombia’s chief negotiator Hernando Jose Gomez said he was confident of agreement by at least three more working groups on such issues as trans-border and financial services, and the removal of tariffs.
Gomez hoped work would start soon on sanitary and other issues to accelerate access of Colombian agricultural products to the US market.
Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias said a permanent technical committee is needed to assist agricultural producers and exporters in solving possible problems with sanitary measures.
Ecuador, Peru and Colombia opened the FTA negotiations with the United States in May 2004.