The Colombian government still hopes U.S. lawmakers will approve the
U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement signed in 2006 even though Barack
Obama, a strong opponent of the deal, just won the U.S. presidential
“It was no surprise that Obama won the election. We hope that the Senate, which resumes work on Nov. 17, will debate the pending issues, which include the FTA with Colombia,” said Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata.
Plata said the FTA may still be debated and ratified during a possible lame-duck session.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who will take office Jan. 20, 2009, has repeatedly said he will oppose the FTA with Colombia until this Andean nation does more to crack down on violence, particularly against labor union leaders.
Colombia and the U.S. signed a free-trade agreement in November 2006, but the trade deal still needs ratification from the U.S. Congress, where it has faced stiff opposition from Democrats and U.S. labor unions, who are wary of politically motivated violence against Colombian trade unionists.
To answer to that concern, last year the Colombian Congress approved an amendment to the agreement to stiffen the regulations on labor and environmental protection.
“We have been reducing violence. We are working on that not because there is an FTA at stake but because it’s the correct thing to do,” Plata said.
Some Democrats are also concerned the free-trade agreement may lead to job losses in the U.S.
On April 10, the U.S. House postponed a vote on the trade agreement until House Democratic leaders decide to bring it to the floor.
Plata urged the U.S. to move swiftly to approve the pact as Colombia has been a loyal ally and it has been working hard to reduce violence.
If U.S. lawmakers don’t approve the FTA this year, the Colombian government will work next year with new officials at the White House.
The free-trade agreement will replace and extend the existing Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Eradication Act, or ATPDEA, which grants exporters from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia benefits to enter the U.S. market. With the free-trade agreement, U.S. producers would also have tariff-free access to the Colombian market.
Last December, the U.S. Congress ratified a similar FTA with Peru. (Dow Jones)