U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce and International Trade Francisco Sanchez gave Colombia further guarantees on Thursday that the pending free trade agreement (FTA) will be passed by the U.S. congress, but added that it will take time, reports El Espectador.
“The Obama administration understand the importance of ratifying the deal, and is confident it will be,” Sanchez said from Bogota, explaining that “FTAs always generate much debate [in the U.S. Congress]. That is what happened in the case with the Chilean FTA, which took nine years to approve. We need to let the discussion continue.”
For her part, Maria Angela Holguin, who was appointed by President-elect Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday to be Colombia’s next foreign minister, said on Friday that she is confident the American congress will pass the FTA, but that it would take about a year to do so.
Regarding the recently approved FTA between Colombia and Canada, which was passed by the Canadian parliament on Tuesday of this week, Undersecretary Sanchez congratulated Colombia, and reassured that the U.S. will work with the incoming Santos government to move forward with their FTA.
On Wednesday, Sanchez wrote in an editorial piece in the Latin Business Chronicle, in which he said that the U.S. “will continue to work towards resolving the outstanding issues in the free trade agreements with Panama and
The passage of such FTAs forms an important part, Sanchez explained, of Obama’s “National Export Initiative,” whose short-term goal is “to double exports in the next five years and to support two million jobs.”
The U.S.-Colombia FTA was originally signed in 2006 by the George W. Bush administration, but has since been put on hold when the Democrats gained a congressional majority in 2007. The Democrats have applied pressure against the Colombian trade deal on the grounds of labor and human rights concerns, and because they think an FTA poses a threat to American jobs.
Proponents of the FTA, however, contend that the agreement would not have an adverse affect on U.S. jobs because Colombia already enjoys tariff-free exports to the U.S., whereas American companies lose billions of dollar a year on import tariffs to Colombia, setting them at a disadvantage to other countries.
In early June, 39 U.S. congressmen sent a letter to Obama urging their head of state to support the FTA, arguing that, “The longer we wait to approve the agreement… the more we stand to lose because Colombia has already concluded free trade negotiations with Canada and the European Union. Clearly, further delay risks sacrificing the entire Colombian market to U.S. competitors.”