Canada, Colombia reach free-trade agreement
Canada has reached a free-trade agreement with Colombia that Ottawa says will improve market access for both nations' agricultural products, as well as industrial goods and services.
The deal "will expand Canada-Colombia trade and investment, and will help solidify ongoing efforts by the Government of Colombia to create a more prosperous, equitable and secure democracy," David Emerson, Canada's foreign affairs and international trade minister, said in a news release on Saturday.
The minister had previously acknowledged that negotiations with Colombia had met with an outcry from human rights groups concerned about the country's history of narcotics trafficking and political death squads.
But Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said in the release Canada's increased involvement in Colombia will ensure that progress is made in the area of workers' rights.
"This agreement, like the one that was signed by our government in Peru last week, contains some of the most comprehensive labour provisions to be found in any agreement anywhere in the world," he said. "As the Colombian government moves forward to strengthen labour rights after a difficult past, Canada will be there to help."
The two countries also struck agreements relating to labour and environmental issues, committing both to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to respect core labour standards set out by the International Labour Organization, such as the elimination of child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination, Emerson said in the release.
Colombia is a significant market for Canadian companies with a population of more than 44 million and a gross domestic product of $154 billion, the government said in the release. Last year, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia was $1.14 billion.
The agreement with Colombia follows a similar one Canada struck with Peru a week ago. The two FTAs will fulfill Canada's promise to be a stronger economic and social partner in Latin America, Emerson said in the release.
The free-trade agreement with Colombia has not yet been formally signed and must still be tabled in the House of Commons.
Canada is expected to enter another controversial round of trade talks this month when it resumes negotiations with South Korea.
Talks between the two countries had stalled as the Asian country worked to hammer out a deal with the United States. If those negotiations are successful, Emerson has said a deal with Canada would be unlikely.
With files from the Canadian Press