Colombia’s trade minister announced Thursday that the free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) would be finalized June 26.
The announcement came on the heels of the European Parliament’s (EP) statement Wednesday that Colombia and Peru—the other South American nation included in the agreement– must improve the human and labor rights situations in their countries before the governing body would sign the deal.
In an official statement, Minister Sergui Diaz-Granados called the trade deal “historic” and “fundamental to stimulate trade and investment in the country,” but did not comment on the EP’s calls for change.
The EU is Colombia’s second-largest trade partner, as its 27 members are counted as a single entity. “Its markets allow our goods and services to reach more than 501 in 27 countries,” said Diaz.
The trade deal will allow 99.9% of Colombian industrial exports to have tariff-free access to EU markets, and, according to Diaz, compete with the host of other countries that already have FTA agreements with the EU like Mexico and Chile.
On May 31, after a year of negotiations, the EU gave its formal endorsement of the FTA with Colombia and Peru. Ratification was scheduled for September 2012, however Tuesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the treaty to be entered into force as soon as possible in order to stimulate the struggling European economy.
While both countries have been scorned for their record on human rights, Colombia has received particular censure for being the most dangerous country in the world for union workers. According to a recent report by International Trade Union Confederation, at least 29 union workers were killed in Colombia in 2011.