Canada lawmakers ratify free trade agreement with Colombia, send to Senate

Bloomberg | Jun 14, 2010

Canada Lawmakers Ratify Free Trade Agreement With Colombia, Send to Senate

By Theophilos Argitis

Canadian lawmakers today approved a free trade agreement with Colombia, a move that may give its agricultural producers an advantage over U.S. competitors in the Latin American country.

Canada’s House of Commons voted 188 to 79 in favor of the accord, which now moves to the Senate for final approval. The two countries began negotiations in 2007 and signed the agreement in 2008.

“In adopting this free trade agreement, Canada will be in a very strong competitive position vis-à-vis our other competition around the world and this will mean a great deal to our agricultural sector,” Canadian Trade Minister Peter Van Loan told reporters earlier today.

Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata said in an April 28 interview that Canadian exporters may gain as U.S. lawmakers delay approval of their free-trade agreement. Plata traveled to Ottawa and Washington earlier this year to court lawmakers in a bid to build support for the trade accords before Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s term expires in August.

“Many of the things that we buy from the U.S. we could buy from Canada and we could buy tariff-free,” Plata, 42, said in the interview, pointing to purchases of wheat, barley, corn, machinery and mining equipment.

In 2008, two-way trade between Canada and Colombia was more than C$1.3 billion ($1.26 billion), according to Canada’s trade department. About 80 percent of Colombian exports are already duty-free, according to figures provided by the trade department, and include goods such as coal, coffee, banana, cut flowers and sugars. Colombia imports wheat and other cereals, newsprint, off-road trucks and machinery and electrical equipment from Canada.

Strengthening Ties

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s governing Conservatives have made strengthening ties with Latin America a priority in an effort to broaden markets for Canadian commodities and reduce the country’s dependence on the U.S. economy.

Harper’s Conservatives lack a majority of seats in Parliament and needed the support of the opposition Liberals to pass the legislation. The Liberals amended the agreement to include yearly assessments of human rights conditions.

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source: Bloomberg