The European Union (EU) announced it is close to ratifying the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia that will likely come into effect in September.
The agreement, which will eliminate various tariffs, widen market access and reduce technical obstacles to trade, was ratified by union members despite earlier concerns. In Novemebr 2009, 12 members of the European Parliament requested that the EU not sign the FTA on account of the country’s poor human rights record, especially in relation to trade unionists.
EU spokesperson Maria Antonia Van Gool said in a statement from Cali’s Chamber of Commerce that “we are interested in consumer protection, the enforcement of our environment and phytosanitary [plant health] laws, and overall public health.”
EU members are primarily interested in increasing ties with Colombia’s agriculutural, mining, oil and technology sectors, according to the EU spokesperson.
She added that Colombia has 17 years to fully adopt the elimination of trade tariffs. The EU will allocate $38 million to improve Colombian products’ quality in order to compete on the international market.
“This agreement should not be compared with other treaties, Colombia still needs a transition period, considering our criteria is very demanding in terms of human rights, sustainability and social inclusion,” said Van Gool.
With the FTA set to begin in September analysts predict that Colombia’s economy will grow 0.7% but its success “will depend on the agility and motivation of the Colombian people in this mutually beneficail agreement,” said the EU.
Van Gool quelled Colombia’s doubts about the Eurozone’s ongoing debt crisis, saying it “has been tougher than we thought, but [the crisis] is transient, and it will end.”
The United States finalized their own FTA with Colombia recently that will go into effect May 15.