Colombian officials and business leaders celebrated the commencement of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with a ceremony in the port city of Cartagena Tuesday.
Colombia’s National Association of Industrialists sent off a container of apparel and textiles to mark the first U.S. bound cargo shipment under new FTA regulation. The same day a plane arrived in Miami from Bogota with a shipment of 4,200 boxes of flowers – Colombia’s first official export to the U.S. under the FTA.
Colombian officials have praised the new trade agreement. The “FTA shall be a formula for growth […] as it contributes to growth through the elimination of obstacles and uncertainties.” said Colombia’s Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados. who said the deal would secure an annuel $3 billion income per year.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday signed the decree that made the long-stalled trade agreement take ffect.
With its initiation, the FTA immediately eliminates the majority of tariffs between the two countries. Duties on protected industries will be phased out over periods ranging from 10 to 19 years.
The agreement has not received universal praise. A report by charity organization Oxfam said the FTA would bankrupt small farmers and increase poverty in rural Colombia. The report said Colombian farmers would be unable to compete against the U.S.’s heavily subsidized agriculture industry.
Labor unions in both countries have criticized the treaty’s passage saying it gives a “green light,” to ongoing violence against labor organizers in Colombia.
Colombia’s Agricultural Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo answered criticism on his Twitter account saying, “The FTA with the U.S. starting on May 15: won’t be a death sentence, tragic, or indolent inactivity, there are advantages and risks.”
The FTA between the two countries was signed by the two governments in 2006, but was not brought before U.S. Congress until last year. U.S. President Barack Obama ratified the treaty in April and announced it would take effect on May 15.