Mexico on verge of ratifying expanded FTA with Colombia

EFE | April 01, 2011

Mexico on verge of ratifying expanded FTA with Colombia

Mexico City –- Mexico is close to ratifying an expanded free-trade deal with Colombia after three Senate committees gave the green light for the agreement, while progress is also being made in negotiations on a separate free-trade accord with Peru, Economy Secretary Bruno Ferrari said.

The treaty with Colombia has already received near-unanimous approval in the Senate’s Agriculture and Ranching, Trade and Industrial Development and Latin America committees and was read Thursday in a plenary session of the upper house ahead of a final vote scheduled for Tuesday.

The current free-trade deal with Colombia was one of the first signed by Mexico and dates back to 1996. It originally included Venezuela, although that country withdrew from the treaty in 2006.

Since the treaty went into effect, the value of Mexican exports to Colombia has increased from $306 million to just under $3.8 billion in 2010, an increase of 1,100 percent.

The value of imports from Colombia, meanwhile, has increased by 550 percent from $121 million to $795 million during that same period.

"Our exports to this country (Colombia) have grown at a rate that is almost three times greater than our sales to the rest of the world," Ferrari said.

The Cabinet secretary said Colombia is the second-largest market in Latin America for Mexican exports and also the second-leading destination for Mexican investment, having received an accumulated total of more than $5.5 billion.

Ferrari said coffee, plantains, sugar, tobacco and cacao, which are major export products for Colombia but sensitive items from Mexico’s standpoint, will not be included in the new trade deal.

According to the secretary, 60,000 new jobs will be created in Mexico and the value of Mexican exports to Colombia will increase to $9 billion over the next five years thanks to the expanded trade deal.

Under the new accord, Mexico will be able to increase its exports of products such as semitrailers, expanded polystyrene and other polystyrenes, non-alcoholic drinks, chickpeas, orange juice, hard wheat, turkey preparations and tomatoes.

Meanwhile, the agreement will open up the Mexican market for Colombian crackers, citric acid, sodium and calcium citrate, palm oil, pork rinds for microwave ovens and cigarettes, among other products.

Mexico also agreed to allow Colombia to export limited quantities of dairy and beef products, a concession sharply criticized by Mexican ranchers who cited concerns about foot-and-mouth disease in the Andean nation.

In that respect, Ferrari said beef imported from Colombia will account for just 1 percent of domestic consumption and "no Colombian beef will enter (Mexico) until that country" is free of foot-and-mouth disease.

The Cabinet secretary also said it is not true that Colombian coffee has been included as part of the expanded trade agreement.

He said that under the accord Mexico will allow imports of coffee capsules used by some modern cafeterias as long as they meet three conditions - the first of which is that the capsules are made with Mexican coffee.

Separately, Ferrari said talks with Peru on a free-trade deal are making progress and that a delegation of Mexican officials is currently in Peru to spur that process to completion.

"At present, trade with Peru creates 23,000 jobs for Mexicans. If the deal is signed, that number could almost double over the next five years with the creation of 17,000 new jobs," he said.

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source: EFE