Colombia and China’s planned meeting to discuss how to improve business relations has been cancelled, and the government denies that a free trade agreement is on the table, local media reported on Tuesday.
Colombia and China’s trade task force, which is responsible for bolstering business relations between the two countries, arranged the meeting, scheduled for this week, in May.
There has been no official reason given for the cancellation of the meeting, though it seems to coincide with the recent resignation of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos’s executive cabinet.
While experts and media maintain that this meeting would have been the first of many that would have led to a free trade agreement between the two countries, the government denied that an FTA would have been discussed.
Colombia’s ex-Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Sergio Diaz-Granados, emphasized that the task force has not met yet and that there has been no official discussion of a free trade agreement with China.
Several who would be directly affected by such trade discussions with China are anticipating an FTA regardless of the government’s claims and are debating the pros and cons of entering one already. The National Business Association of Colombia (ANDI) and the Colombian Farmworkers Society (SAC) provide two opposing views.
Luis Villegas, the ex-President of ANDI asserts that there are many problems with the free trade agreements that Colombia has already entered and that those agreements have already damaged many industrial sectors throughout the country.
Villegas also reiterated the remarks made yesterday by Julio Alonso, an economics professor at the Icesi University in Cali, stating that it would be very difficult for Colombian products to compete with cheaper Chinese alternatives.
SAC President, Rafael Mejia disagrees and believes that an FTA with China could bring a lot of business to Colombia’s food exporters as there is a big demand for food in China. Mejia is confident that Colombia has the potential to be a supplier of 1.2 million Chinese customers.
FTA’s in general have been discussed recently as Colombian media have reported that people are pointing to the agreements already in place as partly to blame for the nationwide agricultural strikes that have been ongoing for almost three weeks. Ex-Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados denies these claims as well.
“It’s unfair to attribute the [agricultural] crisis to foreign trade.”