Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that the free trade agreement the Andean nation finalized with the European Union Tuesday is beneficial to Colombia, according to an official statement from the president’s office.
“This agreement means a preferable commercial relation with the world’s prime importer of goods and services, it also remains a market with a great buying capacity,” said Santos at the the15th annual commemoration of Bogota‘s tax-free zone.
The EU, whose 27 members are counted as a single entity, is the country’s second-largest trade partner, after the United States. The trade deal will reportedly allow 99.9% of Colombian industrial exports to have tariff-free access to European markets, and, according to Colombia’s Tourism and Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados, will help Colombia compete with a host of other countries that already have FTA agreements with the EU like Mexico and Chile.
Colombian Tourism and Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados met with the EU’s European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, in Brussels to sign finalize the document, despite concerns over the Andean nation’s poor human and labor rights record — Colombia has received much criticism for being the most dangerous country in the world for union workers.
Santos noted that final approval from the European Parliament was the last step before the deal goes into effect.
The head of state also lauded the FTA with South Korea was formalized on Tuesday as well. “It’s about a greatly important negotiation to make us closer to Asia, taking advantage of Korea being a big importer of agricultural products and a provider of input and cheap prime materials, for the benefit of the national industry,” he said. Over the next ten years, the deal will eliminate 95.1% of tariffs on Colombian goods and 96.7% on South Korean products, in addition to increasing trade with the Asian economic force that imported over $400 billion worth of goods last year.
The announcement of the agreement two deals comes on the heels of an FTA with the United States that went into effect May 15. Regarding the FTA with the United States, Santos said that the “treaty gives us access to the principal market of the world, which is also our biggest investor and commercial partner.”