Colombia and Peru officially signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) at a ceremony in Madrid on Wednesday, boosting bilateral trade between the European bloc and the Andean nations.
The agreement will offer improved market access for for both parties, according to the European Commission, but also “takes into account” varying levels of economic development.
The document pledges commitment to human rights and sustainable economic development “based on the protection and promotion of labor and environmental rights.”
The agreement must now be judicially assessed and translated, processes expected to take several months. Then it must be passed by the European Parliament and Colombian and Peruvian Congresses before it comes into effect.
During the signing, various NGOs and civil society groups protested against the agreement, primarily due to concerns that Colombia does not meet human rights standards.
Around Colombia representatives of the dairy industry also held protests against the FTA’s signing, due to concerns that the national industry will be put out of business, unable to compete with the heavily-subsidized European dairy market.
Negotiations over the FTA were finalized at the end of February, after nine rounds of talks.
The EU originally began negotiations with all members of the Community of Andean Nations – Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador – but the two latter countries pulled out in 2008.
Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez, Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde and European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht signed the document, in the presence of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Peruvian President Alan Garcia and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who heads the EU this semester.