U.S.-Colombia trade pact signed

Apr 20, 2012

Producers welcomed news that at long last, starting next month, the U.S. will obtain duty-free access to the Colombian market. Signed six years ago and passed by Congress last October, the agreement opens South America’s third-largest market to the U.S.

President Obama made the announcement during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

According to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the two countries completed reviews of each other’s laws and regulations concerning implementation of the agreement.

“This agreement will provide American businesses, farmers and ranchers with significantly improved access to the third largest economy in South America,” Kirk said.

Tariffs will be lowered on vehicles, consumer goods, agricultural commodities, machinery and other U.S. exports, according to Kirk, which will make our goods more competitive in the Colombian market. “That means support for well-paying jobs at home.”

“This is a great opportunity for U.S. beef. This is something NCBA [National Cattlemen’s Beef Association] has been working on for several years,” says NC- BA Director of Legislative Affairs Ken Bacus. “We will finally have a presence in Colombia. The 80 percent tariff has essentially kept us out of that market.”

Bacus says the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will immediately repeal the 80 percent tariff Colombia currently has set on high quality U.S. beef. The agreement will phase out the tariff on all other cuts over the next 15 years.

Bacus says the trade pact will also establish sciencebased standards for Colombia based on standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health.

Colombia’s tariffs on U.S. goods have raised the cost of American products sold in Colombia by as much as 15 percent.

But some lawmakers and labor rights activists are concerned that the FTA will create conflicts in Colombia.

“The president’s decision was premature,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, told GlobalPost. “This takes the pressure off the powers that be in Colombia from dealing with continued human rights violations against unionists.”

Colombian congressmen are filing a lawsuit against the passage of the U.S.-Colombia FTA, saying that legislation in the FTA dealing with intellectual property and internet access did not pass through proper congressional procedures, reported local media.

A congressman from the Polo Democratico party, Jorge Robledo, said lawyers are finalizing a lawsuit asking to nullify the FTA, which will be presented before the Constitutional Court this week. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor