October 11, 2006
Chile, Colombia begin free trade talks
Chile and Colombia on Tuesday began a series of free trade talks which they aimed to complete within two months, Carlos Furche, who heads Chile’s negotiating team said in Santiago ahead of the first meeting.
"Today we will launch a unique effort. The bilateral free trade agreement with Colombia will be the broadest and deepest in the region," said Furche, director general of the international economic relations department of the Chilean Foreign Ministry.
The deal under discussion is intended to extend the planned Economic Complementation Accord signed in 1994 and lift tariffs on 95 percent of the products produced by the two countries until 2011.
Eight working groups will discuss a range of topics including, public purchasing, services, investment, trade barriers and customs procedures.
The broad agenda will "strengthen and promote the complementary (nature) of our two economies, Furche added.
Colombia’s Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Industry and Tourism, Eduardo Munoz, who leads his country’s negotiating team, said that both parties were committed to what he called the "intense and speedy" work needed to complete talks by the end of November, the deadline set by the two countries’ presidents.
The second round of talks is due on Oct. 23 to Oct. 27, and the signing is expected during Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s visit to Chile, planned for late November.
Chile exported goods worth 347.5 million U.S. dollars to Colombia in 2005, and Colombia exported goods worth 318.3 million dollars to Chile, according to the Chilean central bank.