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[Excerpt] The proposed U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, also called the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), was signed by the United States and Colombia on November 22, 2006. The agreement must be approved by Congress before it can enter into force. Upon congressional approval, it would immediately eliminate duties on 80% of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia. An additional 7% of U.S. exports would receive duty-free treatment within five years of implementation, and most remaining tariffs would be eliminated within 10 years of implementation. The agreement also contains other provisions in services, investment, intellectual property rights protection, labor, and the environment. About 90% of U.S. imports from Colombia enter the United States duty-free under trade preference programs or through normal trade relations, while U.S. exports to Colombia face duties of up to 20%.

It is possible that the 112th may consider implementing legislation for the proposed CFTA. Negotiations for the agreement were conducted under the trade promotion authority (TPA), also called fast-track trade authority, that Congress granted the President under the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-210). The authority allowed the President to enter into trade agreements that would receive expedited congressional consideration (no amendments and limited debate). Implementing legislation for the CFTA (H.R. 5724/S. 2830) was introduced in the 110th Congress on April 8, 2008, under TPA. The House leadership, however, took the position that the President had submitted the implementing legislation without adequately fulfilling the TPA requirement for consultation with Congress. On April 10, 2008, the House voted 224-195 to make the provisions establishing expedited procedures, inapplicable to the CFTA implementing legislation (H.Res. 1092).

In his January 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama mentioned the importance of opening foreign markets for U.S. goods and services, and strengthening U.S. trade relations with Colombia. In 2010, the Administration initiated a new National Export Initiative (NEI), which includes a component that calls for opening new markets for U.S. exports by resolving outstanding issues on the pending CFTA. The Obama Administration also has made a case for pursuing free trade agreements as part of the National Security Strategy of the United States, though the CFTA is not specifically mentioned in the report.

The congressional debate surrounding the agreement has mostly centered on the violence issues in Colombia. Some members of Congress oppose the agreement because of concerns about violence against union members and other terrorist activity in Colombia. However, numerous members of Congress support the CFTA and take issue with these charges, stating that Colombia has made progress in recent years to curb the violence in the country. They also contend that the agreement would open the Colombian market for U.S. exporters. Other policymakers argue that Colombia is a crucial ally of the United States in Latin America and that if the trade agreement is not passed, it may lead to further violence in the region. For Colombia, a free trade agreement with the United States is part of its overall economic development strategy.

The United States is Colombia’s leading trade partner. Colombia accounts for a very small percentage of U.S. trade (0.8% in 2009), ranking 22nd among U.S. export markets and 27th as a source of U.S. imports. Economic studies on the impact of a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement (FTA) have found that, upon full implementation of an agreement, the impact on the United States would be positive but very small due to the small size of the Colombian economy when compared to that of the United States (about 1.6%).


Suggested Citation

Angeles Villareal, M. (2011). The proposed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement [Electronic version]. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.