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US-Colombia

On 27 February 2006, the United States and Colombia reached a Trade Promotion Agreement whose negative impacts were immediately subjected to severe criticism by civil society. The perks granted to the US by the new FTA, especially concerning agriculture and national treatment, rapidly became public knowledge.

One controversial provision concerned quotas on “special” agricultural products that are allowed to enter Colombia in limited quantities without tariffs from the very first year of the FTA; these quotas were increased at the signing of the agreement. Furthermore, the US insisted on Colombia’s acceptance of beef from cows over 30 months, a latent animal and human health risk due to the possible entry of “mad cow” infected animals.

The agreement was approved by the Colombian Congress over the opposition of the Polo Democrático Alternativo and the Colombian Liberal Party. The U.S. Congress later emerged as its chief opponent, rejecting the treaty after the Democratic Party won majorities in both houses and adopted a more aggressive stance on Bush administration policies.

The Democrats argued that the Uribe government had not done enough to curtail the paramilitaries’ crimes against humanity. Colombia, they said, should first put an end to violence against trade unionists and peasants, and indict politicians implicated in the “paragate” scandal (collusion with the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces and with drug trafficking mafias).

A vote on the deal was put off in April 2008 after President Bush sent the corresponding bill to Congress despite a recommendation against this move on the part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi sought a change to the House rules to prevent the fast-track timetable from kicking in.

In Colombia, opposition has remained firm in recent years, with various sectors mobilizing heavily to resist the FTA. The most recent large-scale mobilization was the “Minga,” in which indigenous people from all over the country traveled thousands of kilometers to Bogotá to reject the FTA, among other demands. Many other sectors of Colombian society signed on to the indigenous mobilization.

Despite the continuing resistance, the Colombian government benefitting from an improved image under President Santos (even though the policies and problems of the Uribe administration persist) won the approval for its FTA with the United States from the US Congress on 10 October 2011. It entered into force on 15 May 2012. Putting this FTA into motion required the approval of more than 15 regulations in the form of laws or decrees to bring Colombia legislation into line with the FTA on issues such as intellectual property, safeguards and tariffs.

last update: May 2012


No deal is better than a bad deal: 4 years of US-Colombia free trade pact
Since a free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia came into force on May 15, 2012, exports from Colombia to the US have been cut in half while violence against labor rights workers persists.
US-Colombia trade down 19% since free trade deal
Instead of increasing, trade between the United States and Colombia dropped 19% following the implementation of a controversial free trade agreement between the two countries.
Impacts of the US-Colombia FTA in the farm sector: The portraits
A new book “puts faces” on the realities rural people are experiencing two years into the US-Colombia FTA.
Impacts of the US-Colombia FTA in the farm sector
This report looking at specific cases that reflect the farming reality of Colombia allows us to verify what happened with the promises around the US FTA and open a broad debate about it.
Book alleges donor cash influenced Hillary’s stance on Colombia trade deal
While stopping short of a direct accusation, conservative author Peter Schweizer implies there was a blurred line between Bill Clinton’s charity work and Hillary Clinton’s work at the State Department — ultimately leading to her support of the US-Colombia trade deal.
105 Colombian trade unionists killed in 4 years: NGO
Colombia’s National Union School presented a report to the US Congress denouncing the killing of at least 105 trade unionists since the implementation of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Colombia has complied with US trade pact labor reforms: Minister
Colombia says it has complied with labor reforms required by US Congress as condition for their FTA but labour unions disagree.
’Sharing is not a crime’: Why a Colombian student faces prison for posting research online
A South American biologist who found a five-year-old master’s degree thesis online, then shared it with fellow graduate students on a Web page, could spend the next eight years in prison for copyright infringement — thanks to the US-Colombia FTA.
In Colombia, free trade brings more poverty and more killings
Colombian unions and farmers opposed the free trade agreement strongly, and today hold it responsible for increasing poverty while fostering a climate in which corporate rights are paramount and labor rights hardly exist.
Santos’ FTA promises prove false; Colombia’s exports to US drop 15.5%
A promised increase in exports to the United States as a result of a free trade agreement has failed to materialize as exports contracted 15.5%, according to Colombia’s statistics agency.