Proposed United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues *

By Villarreal, M. Angeles | Current Politics and Economics of South and Central America, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Proposed United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues *


Villarreal, M. Angeles, Current Politics and Economics of South and Central America


INTRODUCTION

The proposed U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, also called the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), is a bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia which, if ratified, would eliminate tariffs and other barriers in goods and services between the two countries. The CFTA negotiations grew out of a regional effort in 2004 to produce a U.S.-Andean free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and the Andean countries of Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador.

After numerous rounds of talks, negotiators failed to reach an agreement, and Colombia continued negotiations with the United States for a bilateral FTA. On February 27, 2006, the United States and Colombia concluded the U.S.-Colombia FTA, and finalized the text of the agreement on July 8, 2006. On August 24, 2006, President Bush notified Congress of his intention to sign the U.S.-Colombia FTA. The two countries signed the agreement on November 22, 2006. The Colombian Congress approved the agreement in June 2007 and again in October 2007, after the agreement was modified to include new labor and environmental provisions.

On April 8, 2008, President George W. Bush sent implementing legislation for the United States- Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act (H.R. 5724/S. 2830) to the 110th Congress. The bill was introduced under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) provisions of the Trade Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-210).1 This act made expedited legislative procedures established in § 151 - 154 of the Trade Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-618) available for congressional consideration of legislation to implement free trade agreements negotiated under TPA.

The House leadership, however, took the position that President Bush had submitted the legislation to implement the CFTA without adequately fulfilling the TPA requirements for consultation with Congress. On April 10, 2008, the House, by a vote of 224-195, adopted H.Res. 1092, making certain provisions of the expedited procedure inapplicable to the CFTA implementing legislation.

A subsequent ruling by the House Parliamentarian indicated that because the expedited procedures under TPA are tied to the act of the President entering into a free trade agreement, a one-time event, that the use of these procedures through the introduction of an implementing bill may also only be done one time. It appears, therefore, that in the House, a CFTA implementing bill introduced in the 112th Congress may not be eligible for expedited procedures under TPA.

Although the House, should it choose, may have multiple options for moving a CFTA implementing bill, including adopting a special rule. It is unclear how the House would proceed in this case.

RATIONALE FOR THE AGREEMENT

Since the 1 990s, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have been a focus of U.S. trade policy as demonstrated by the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement, the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), and the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. The Bush administration made bilateral and regional trade agreements key elements of U.S. trade policy. U.S. trade policy in the Western Hemisphere over the past few years has been focused on completing trade negotiations with Colombia, Peru, and Panama and on gaining passage of these free trade agreements by the U.S. Congress. The U.S.-Peru FTA was approved by Congress and signed into law in December 2007 (P.L. 110-138).2

A free trade agreement with Colombia would increase market access for U.S. goods and services in the Colombian market, currently not the case under the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA). ATPA is a unilateral trade preference program in which the United States extends preferential duty treatment to select Colombian goods entering the United States. It is part of a broader U.S. initiative with Latin America to address the illegal drug issue (see section on ATPA later in this report). …

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