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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


Labour leaders report back: No to Colombia FTA
We visited Colombia from July 18-25 on behalf of one million Canadian public sector workers. Our mission was to see for ourselves whether our opposition to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement was justified. What we saw and learned confirmed that we are right to oppose this deal and to speak out against it on behalf of Colombian workers and their families.
Colombia deal side agreements under microscope
With the Canada-Colombia deal done, but the text still kept secret, some say that the provisions on labour and the environment at least establish a record of commitment, while others say that without enforceable complaint mechanisms the side agreements amount to little more than lip service.
‘Increased foreign investment will not lift all boats’
Paul Moist, the President of Canada’s largest union, expressed concern about a free trade deal between Canada and Colombia during a recent meeting with Fabio Valencio, Colombia’s Minister of the Interior.
Free trade: A baby step to the south
When Canada concluded free trade talks with Colombia in June, the announcement came in the form of a release on a Saturday. But burying news of the deal on a weekend hasn’t stopped a storm of protest. In Ottawa, the opposition blasted the government for reaching an FTA (whose ratification will likely take months) without waiting for an assessment report from the Commons trade committee, whose members recently travelled to Colombia - a country that has been plagued by drug trafficking, paramilitary death squads and other forms of strife.
What Ottawa didn’t tell you about Colombia FTA
Today, Canada presents itself in Latin America as a "Third Way," differing from the models offered by the United States and Venezuela. Is this true? A look at the Free Trade Agreements being drawn up for Latin America may bring one to the conclusion that each new trade agreement is progressively more damaging for these countries.
Wrangling over Colombia trade deal continues
A sharply divided Commons’ trade committee has taken a hard line on the Canada-Colombia free trade pact, but supports an eventual agreement.
Building its ties to Colombia: Canada’s imperial adventure in the Andes
The United States and Canada have chosen to promote Colombia as an aggressive and heavily militarized bulwark against anti-imperialism in the region — an Israel of the Andes.
Canada-Colombia FTA: When democracy gets in the way, just sign it, eh?
Many Canadians may never know the difficulties of people resisting the military imposition of an economic model that is ultimately intended for the entire planet, or for ’our Mother Earth’ as the indigenous peoples in Cauca call it. Many Canadians may not know the extent to which they are kept in the dark through the entrenched telling and retelling of the "Canada the good" mythology. It’s time to wake up, eh?
Disaster in the making: Canada concludes its Free Trade Agreement with Colombia
What’s the monetary value of a Colombian trade unionist’s life? As it turns out, it depends on how many are killed in a given year since the potential fines the Colombian government will have to pay as penalty under its free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada whenever a union activist is killed is capped at $15 million. If this sounds like a sick joke I apologize, but this is in effect what the Canadian government actually negotiated.
Canadian opposition slams Colombia free trade deal
Canadian opposition legislators on Monday strongly criticized Ottawa for agreeing to the terms of a free trade deal with Colombia, suggesting it had only done so because the move would help US President George W. Bush.