President Juan Manuel Santos confirms that a delegation from the U.S. will arrive in Colombia Tuesday to analyze the pending free trade agreement (FTA) between the two nations, Caracol Radio reported Monday.
Santos said that a key theme of the meetings will be to assess Colombia’s progress in the protection of human rights activists, which has been a primary source of objection amongst opponents of the agreement.
The Colombian leader earlier stated that “if the FTA isn’t approved this year, we will not continue to insist,” saying that Colombia will instead pursue deals with other export markets.
The head of state did, however, speak of his expectation that the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Eradication Act will be renewed shortly, despite the fact that U.S. Congress let it expire Saturday.
A vote to extend the deal, which provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for many export products, was delayed after being caught up in a partisan dispute over spending.
The disagreement apparently refers to a separate measure that was tied into the vote, and legislators reached consensus over the extension of trade preferences to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador but not over the other measure.
The president moved to allay the fears of businessmen by explaining that he has been assured by U.S. lawmakers that the deal will be renewed, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “possibly what will happen is that when [the U.S. Congress] passes it they will do it retroactively. That is, you will not have to pay any duties on any products, because they will give it back to you.”
The expiry of the beneficial trade agreement has reportedly affected 6,000 Colombian products.