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Colombia, US to resume talks in January

Business Week

Colombia, U.S. to resume talks in January

19 December 2005

(AP) Stalled U.S.-Colombia free-trade talks will resume next month, Colombia’s trade minister said Monday.

The South American country suspended the 19-month-old talks in November, demanding that Washington cut farm subsidies so that Colombian farmers would not be disadvantaged.

Colombia also wants assurances that, at least for a several years, Colombian firms will not be forced to pay higher royalties for medicines.

Colombian Trade Minister Jorge Humberto Botero said that apart from a few "hypersensitive" issues, all other disagreements in its free trade negotiations with Washington were close to being resolved.

Along with Ecuador and Peru, Colombia had been negotiating a free-trade deal with the United States to replace trade preferences unilaterally granted by Washington to help the three Andean countries shift away from the production of coca leaf - the raw material for cocaine. The trade preferences are scheduled to end in 2006.

With Colombia and Ecuador balking at a group deal, Peru earlier this month reached a bilateral agreement with Washington.

The three Andean nations collectively represented a market of US$8.3 billion (euro6.9 billion) for U.S. exports in 2004, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. The stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in these countries was US$7.7 billion (euro 6.4 billion) in 2004.