Colombia’s Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata Tuesday asked the U.S. to “be sincere and tell us if the free trade agreement (FTA) is going to go ahead or not.”
“More than three years have passed without the FTA being signed and we are still not on the U.S.’s agenda, nor has a date been set for when the agreement will be brought before [U.S.] Congress,” Plata said.
“The FTA with the U.S. works both ways. They’re not doing us a favor or providing assistance, its a treaty to encourage trade from the U.S. to Colombia and from our market to that country,” Plata continued.
The trade minister said that it was hard to make the necessary changes without knowing what the U.S. expected of Colombia.
Plata said Colombia hopes to receive as soon as possible the list of recommendations which the U.S. has promised to give in order to help the Andean nation resolve labor rights concerns that are blocking the FTA’s approval.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee last week that Colombia will be provided with “a finite list of what we’d like to see get done.”
Plata said Colombia has made great progress in its human rights record, in the protection of trade unionists and in combating the impunity of those who commit crimes against them. He added that foreign countries do not give Colombia enough credit for its advances.
Kirk reiterated during a National Press Club speech in Washington Tuesday, that his government “is trying to resolve the issues surrounding the free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, with the objective that they can be implemented at the suitable moment.”
Kirk added that that these FTAs “have the potential to generate economic benefits and significant strategies for the United States.”
The free trade pact signed by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and former U.S. President George W. Bush has been stalled in U.S. Congress due to concerns about violence against labor rights activists in Colombia.