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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


No such thing as free trade
When Canadian Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day signed the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Peru on November 21, it was a happy day for Canada’s oil and gas sector, but the deal was celebrated instead as a landmark for human rights and democracy in Colombia.
Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement should be rejected
The Harper government pretends that the Colombian Free Trade agreement will advance the human rights agenda in Colombia. But essentially, here is what would happen: in case of abuse, a small fine would be levied by the Canadian government which the Colombian government would then pay to itself.
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Signed
Not a government to fail to live up to its reactionary commitments, the Tories signed Canada’s free trade agreement with Colombia on November 21st. The signing is the culmination of the Tory government’s aggressive campaign to reach a trade deal with the human-rights troubled Andean country. Prime Minister Harper first announced his government’s intention to get a deal with Colombia during his state visit there in July, 2007. Sixteen months and three high-level cabinet-minister visits later, and voila!, mission accomplished.
Canada’s deal with Colombia ignores human rights abuses
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has joined with other labour and human rights organizations in condemning the Harper government’s approval of a free-trade deal with Colombia. The union is urging MPs in Ottawa to reject the tentative deal.
Canadian Churches signal alarm over free trade deal with Colombia
KAIROS calls on the government of Canada to conduct a Human Rights Impact Assessment before proceeding any further.
Free trade with Colombia a cruel move
Harper says that workers’ protection has been written into the trade deal. But whether these stipulations will be enforced is another story.
Canada and Colombia sign free-trade agreement
Canada and Colombia signed a free-trade agreement in Lima, the Peruvian capital, on Friday.
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.