BY LBC STAFF
After a two-year impasse, the Obama Administration has reached a deal, “Action Plan Related to Labor Rights,” with Colombia that will pave the way for congressional approval of the five-year old US-Colombia free trade agreement.
“We regard this as a big breakthrough,” says John Murphy, Vice President of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As a result, the Colombia FTA may be approved by the US Congress within the next few months.
Murphy credits the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley for the breakthrough.
Daley assumed his position in mid-January and appears to have been especially instrumental in moving the process forward. Daley, who served as commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton, was known as a supporter of the Colombia FTA. Three years ago – in April 2008 – he signed an open letter urging Congress to pass the free trade agreement. Also Clinton himself has supported the Colombia FTA.
U.S. tariffs on Colombian manufactured goods averaged just 0.1 percent last year, but Colombian tariffs on U.S. manufactured goods averaged 15 percent — and even higher for U.S. agricultural products, the US Chamber of Commerce points out.
“We can’t afford further delay,” U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement. “Other nations are racing to clinch their own trade deals with Colombia and put American workers at a competitive disadvantage. U.S. farmers have already seen their share of Colombia’s agriculture market fall from about three-quarters two years ago to one-quarter today.”
Meanwhile, the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) also welcomed the Obama Administration’s announcement on the resolution of labor-related issues standing in the way of approval of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
“We applaud U.S. and Colombian negotiators for working together to resolve these outstanding issues over the past many weeks,” NFTC President Bill Reinsch said in a statement. “Colombia has long been a vitally important strategic ally in the region and a key export market for U.S. companies and agricultural producers. Implementation of the Colombia FTA will further strengthen our longstanding bilateral economic ties and help to promote export growth and job creation…As the Administration works with the Colombian Government to achieve the goals laid out in the Action Plan, and to submit the implementing legislation in the coming months, we look forward to working with Congress to ratify the FTA as soon as possible.”
With other countries such as Canada working to implement agreements with Colombia over the next few months, the NFTC is encouraged that the Obama Administration has taken the necessary steps to move the FTA forward as soon as possible this year, added NFTC Vice President for Regional Trade Initiatives Chuck Dittrich.
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