The Colombian-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into effect at midnight last night, after US president Barack Obama signed the pact yesterday.
Colombian businesses commemorated the agreement with a celebration in Cartagena this morning by sending off of the first US-bound containers, including 4,200 boxes of flowers by plane to Miami. A shipment of textiles and apparel is expected to arrive on US soil in eight days.
“FTA will be a formula for growth [...] as it contributes to growth through the elimination of obstacles and uncertainties,” said Trade minister Sergio Diaz-Granados. It will see Colombian-US trade incur minimal, if not non-existant, import/export tariffs.
Hernando José Gómez, who is the appointed ‘FTA czar’, responsible for the legal and commercial management of the pact, told Colombian daily, The Spectator, that FTA is expected to increase domestic exports to the United States by 35-40% in the next year. It is also thought to generate US$3 billion annually for the South American country.
The FTA was signed in 2006, but was not brought before US congress until last year. Obama pushed the treaty forward at this year’s Summit of the Americas, which took place in Colombia during April. US president Barak Obama announced that the agreement would in fact be implemented after years of stalling, and put into place today.
Problems which have arisen with the agreement has taken six years to put into practice, due to a number of problems, such as Colombia’s poor track record with worker’s rights.
Labour unions complain that the FTA still ignores these human rights abuses, as Colombia reportedly has the highest number of trade union deaths in the world.