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Canada-Colombia

On 7 June 2008, Canada concluded free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Colombia. The Canadian government has pushed this agreement, stating that “Colombia is an established and growing market for Canadian exporters (e.g. wheat, pulses, barley, chemicals, paper products, and heavy equipment) and service providers (mining, oil and gas, engineering, information, and communication sectors), as well as a strategic destination for Canadian direct investments (mining, oil exploration, printing, and education).“

Canada has also said that the FTA will “promote a more stable and predictable investment environment in Colombia.“ Many Colombians and Canadians think otherwise, and believe that the investment and economic ramifications of the FTA will lead to more instability and increased human rights violations in a country already plagued with violence and conflict. Canadian mining interests, for example, will benefit greatly from equal treatment in the exploitation of Colombian natural resources. But in a country where trade unionists and labor activists are routinely threatened and murdered, many say that the involvement of Canadian business interests will only increase illegal persecution of those who struggle for fair working conditions and other labour-related causes. Mineral exploitation, such as that being developed in the town of Marmato by Canadian Colombia Goldfields, threatens the displacement of whole communities in order to facilitate mining, in a country already estimated to have between 1.8 and 3 million internally displaced people.

Canada-Colombia trade relations are nominal in comparison to other countries, barely surpassing $1 billion in trade each year. However, in terms of sectors engaged in megaprojects, such as mining or oil and gas, Canadian multinationals are among the major players.

Regarding Canada’s promotion of this FTA, Michael Hart, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa says, “It’s a political gesture [on behalf of the Harper government] toward an embattled government in Colombia.“ The question is whether Uribe’s government, with its civil war involving an all-out offensive on guerrilla groups, handshakes with paramilitaries, and the dirty war on trade unionists, the political left, and human rights defenders, is the kind of “embattled“ regime that Canada should be making friendly “gestures“ to.

There was no public draft text of the agreement to speak of, and the agreement was concluded without waiting for an assessment from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

There has been minimal media coverage and the majority of Canadians are unaware of the existence of this accord.

The agreement was signed by the Government of Canada on 21 November 2008 over strong criticism from the opposition parties and condemnation from Colombian civil society organizations. It came into force on 15 August 2011, providing important strategic value to the government of Colombia in terms of facilitating the ratification of its FTAs with the US and the EU.

last update: May 2012


Commons seals Colombia free-trade deal
Canada’s free-trade agreement with Colombia passed Monday in the House of Commons with the backing of the Liberals, sealing a deal much criticized by human rights groups
Forgery, murder, deception — the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.
The lies are constant, unerring, and slick; yet the lies haven’t been able to convince members of the US Congress that this new government in Colombia has any respect for human rights. Apparently, the Harper government and Ignatieff’s Liberals are much more pliable.
Tweet-In for Colombia – Stop the free trade agreement
The time is now to stop the Conservatives and Liberals who are trying to rush through a harmful free trade agreement with Colombia without properly assessing its potential impact on human rights, workers and the environment.
MPs divided on Canada-Colombia trade agreement
Increasing trade between Canada and Colombia would help fight drug traffickers and improve human rights in the South American country, says Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost. But critics say the country’s poor human-rights record should put any free-trade plans on hold.
Canada may gain as US delays Colombia agreement
Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata said Canadian exporters may gain as US lawmakers delay approval of a free-trade agreement with the Latin American country.
Colombia-Canada FTA in final stages
Colombia’s minister of trade, industry and tourism, Luis Guillermo Plata, announced Tuesday that the country has reached the "final stages" of negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada, reports Caracol Radio.
Canada - Door open for beef to Colombia
The Colombian market for Canadian beef, worth about $6 million per year, has just been reopened in the context of the proposed Canada-Colombia FTA, after being closed since 2003 due to BSE in Canadian cattle.
Independent human rights impact assessment needed before Canada-Colombia free trade, CAW says
Canadian Auto Workers is calling for an immediate halt to any federal government plans to finalize a Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement without the guarantee of an independent human rights impact assessment in Colombia.
’A simple protest can lead to death’: Canada’s auto union on Colombia FTA
Canadian Auto Workers, the country’s largest union, last week issued a press release calling on the government to halt trade negotiations with Colombia, calling the deal "a shocking betrayal of Canadians’ expectation that we don’t negotiate with human rights abusers."
Proposed Colombia trade pact amended
The federal government has agreed to add a new element to Canada’s proposed free-trade agreement with Colombia. "It will be the first FTA in the world to require an annual human-rights assessment to be tabled in both countries’ parliaments," the amendment’s author says.