European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht signed Wednesday a “milestone” package opening up trade and investment to and from Colombia and Peru.
The package of measures, estimated by the European Commission “to be worth overall half a billion euros in duties saved alone,” will eliminate tariffs in all industrial and fisheries products, the EU executive said.
It will also “increase market access for agricultural products, improve access to public procurement, services and investment markets, further reduce technical barriers to trade, and establish common disciplines including on intellectual property rights, transparency and competition.”
“This agreement is a milestone in our trade relations with the Andean region and creates the right framework to boost trade and investment on both sides,” De Gucht said in a statement.
The deal, which also binds the south American states to respect human rights and international labor norms, still needs final approval from the 27 EU states and the European Parliament.
Human rights organizations have criticized the pact, claiming it endorses Colombian human rights violations.
International Office for the Protection of Human Rights-Action Colombia (OIDHACO) claims the deal, which still requires ratification by the EU’s member states and its parliament, shows that Europe is only interested in defending human rights “as long as it does not interfere with its business interests.” Furthermore they claim that supporting the FTA constitutes an acceptance of the ongoing violations of basic human rights in Colombia.
Colombian newspaper El Espectador reported, one of the OIDHACO’s key concerns is that the FTA does not exclude the investment in, and development of, land from which Colombians have been displaced during the conflict which “left thousands dead and more than five million displaced.”
Vincent Vallier, a spokesman for OIDHACO, also denounced the various “forced disappearances and assassinations of unionists and human rights defenders” that occured during the years when the FTA was originally negotiated.
The NGO’s claims contradict statements made by Colombia’s Social Protection Minister, Mauricio Santamaria.
Santamaria recently met with E.U. officials to publicise Colombia’s recent achievements in the protection of human rights, particularly with respect to the fact that levels of violent crime against union officials are at their lowest in Colombia’s history.
The issue of human rights has also featured heavily in the latest bilateral FTA negotiations between Colombia and the U.S., agreement on which has been delayed due to U.S. concerns for Colombia’s protection of basic freedoms.
In 2010, the E.U. exported $5.66 billion of goods and services to Colombia.