Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos offered the government’s “full support” to those most affected by the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S., which went into effect Tuesday.
“With free trade agreements there are always winners and losers. In the case of the FTA with the U.S., the latter will have the full support of government to adapt to new circumstances,” said a presidential statement read by one of Santos’ aides in Cartagena.
A joint report issued by humanitarian organizations Oxfam and Planeta Paz estimates that 1.8 million farmers will see their incomes drop by 16% as a result of the FTA.
The two groups also proposed a comprehensive benefits program that would help mitigate the effects of the agreement on Colombia’s rural economy.
According to Santos, the newly-lauched FTA, which eliminates the majority of tariffs between the two nations, will “create an environment of stability that will benefit investment and job creation,” and is expected to create half a million jobs in five years for Colombians.
“The United States has a diversified industrial base that gives [Colombia] space to sell chemicals, plastics, furniture, metalworks and much more,” read the statement.
Santos also hopes Colombian food pruducts will now make headway in U.S. markets. “We can be the world’s pantry for food,” he said.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Colombia is one of seven countries with more than half its land being arable. Santos announced the government is working on increasing Colombia’s export of meat, avocado, melon and pepper to the U.S.
Paul Riveira, operations manager of the Regional Port Society of Barranquilla, told financial newspaper Portfolio that he expects a growth rate “above 7 or 8%” for Colombia’s economy following the agreement. “We are being very aggressive commerically,” he added.
President Santos was supposed to appear in the coastal city for the launching of the first cargo containers to American shores, but did not make the trip from Bogota due to Tuesday’s terrorist attack.