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The Colombia-US free trade agreement

José Francisco MaflaAndrés Vásquez Obando

After a recent meeting between US President Barack Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the ratification process of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement seems to have gained new momentum as several key developments have taken place.

The agreement was originally signed in November 2006; thereafter, each country had to complete the process of internal ratification. Colombia's Congress approved the agreement in 2007 and it was deemed to conform to the Colombian Constitution by the Constitutional Court in 2008.

Ever since, the agreement has faced a continued impasse and failed negotiations between the two governments because, until now, objections in US Congress over labour rights, impunity for violence against labour leaders and related issues have held up the approval of the agreement.

After the meeting between the two presidents, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk stated that the Colombian government had agreed to make a commitment to protect workers' rights, prevent violence against labour leaders and prosecute violators and upgrade enforcement at all levels. Meanwhile, the US government has publicly stated that it is seeking priority for the agreement to be ratified by Congress.

The agreement aims to facilitate commerce between the two countries and will have a positive economic impact on both communities. The agreement envisions a reduction to 0% of duties charged on 80% of the goods traded between the two countries, which will allow consumers to have access to more goods at lower prices. Additionally, it will give Colombian exporters access to 310 million US consumers. This is expected to generate an increase of at least 6% in Colombian exports to the United States, which is already its largest trading partner.

Notably, Colombia will have to implement internal legislation in order to comply with the additional commitments of the agreement, which are expected to pass through Congress in the coming years. Furthermore, from a foreign trade perspective, Colombia is already modernising its ports and customs procedures in order to take full advantage of the agreement.

On the other hand, the agreement also includes an investment section which will give investors of both countries a higher degree of protection for their foreign investments in the other country. This is expected to increase the flow of foreign direct investment between the two countries, which will aid their economic growth, especially for Colombia, which, as one of the most dynamic and promising developing economies, is already a member of the CIVETS group of countries.

José Francisco Mafla and Andrés Vásquez Obando

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