By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, Master in International Relations Candidate at IE*

In February of 2006, Colombia signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Five years later, the deal is still waiting to be implemented. Recent events in the US have sent mixed signals to Colombian decision makers regarding the future state of this arrangement. On one hand, during his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama made the following remarks: “Before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks”. However, only a few days later, the US Congress allowed the expiration of the Andean Trade Preference Act, which gave access to Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador to a trade preference agreement. How will this complex situation end?


President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative hopes to double US exports by 2015. The strategy acknowledged the intention to promote the “enforcement of international trade laws to help remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting free and fair access to foreign markets”. In this sense, advancement in the FTA with Colombia is a logical step towards a more open trade relationship with Latin America. Colombia is the third-largest market for US exports in Latin America, only behind Mexico and Brazil.

As highlighted by the US International Trade Commission in 2006, “the pending trade agreement would eliminate about three quarters of the duties on industrial and agricultural goods immediately”, while all other duties would be gradually reduced over the next following years. It is important to point out that Colombia is currently applying tariffs to US goods that are well below its WTO binding limits. This could obviously change some day according to political criteria, but implementation of the FTA would completely turn the situation around, binding Colombia’s tariffs to zero and creating more security for US exporters.

Some voices in the US have brought up the issue of violence against trade unions in Colombia as a reason to not pass this agreement. However, murders of Colombian union member leaders have gone down steadily in the last decade, in correlation with the overall decrease of violence and terrorism in the country. While 200 union leaders were killed in 2001, the number was four times smaller in 2010. Additionally, judicial convictions for this crimes have gone from 10 to 80 in the last eight years. Therefore, this argument needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Read more… 


*Diego Sánchez de la Cruz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Universidad Antonio de Nebrija plus a Postgraduate course on Political Communication from Universidad Pontificia Comillas/ICADE. Diego was an international exchange student in the University of San Diego, in California (USA), and completed a Seminar on Political Communication from George Washington University. Over the last years, he has collaborated with Public Affairs firms like Llorente & Cuenca or media outlets like El Correo Gallego.


Lucía March 1, 2011 - 8:57 am

I think it’s interesting to see how Colombia has diversified its trade strategy, ultimately making the US reconsider the need to pass this FTA once and for all.

Catalina March 2, 2011 - 11:38 pm

Indeed, free trade agreements, when properly conducted, can help emerging countries in their development process. I hope the US legislators who have blocked the implementation of this FTA realize that neither party benefits from protectionism, while open relations would boost both countries at the same time.

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