Colombia’s Congress last night passed bills to implement a free-trade accord with the U.S., advancing the agreement ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit this weekend for the Summit of the Americas.
The Senate and lower house passed the legislation last night, Colombia’s trade ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. The deal, projected to increase U.S. exports by as much as $1.1 billion a year when in full effect, won U.S. approval in October after Colombia pledged to strengthen protection of labor unions. Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) (CAT) and General Electric Co. (GE) (GE) are among the accord’s biggest backers.
The agreement may enable Colombia to boost exports, including oil, metals and cut flowers, to the U.S. and will immediately eliminate duties once in effect on more than 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial products exports to Colombia, with remaining tariffs phased out over 10 years.
The U.S. exported $14.3 billion in goods to Colombia last year and imported $23.1 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
The trade pact, which was first agreed more than five years ago under President George W. Bush, was stalled in the U.S. Congress amid Democratic opposition. The Obama administration sent it back to lawmakers in October after Colombia pledged to strengthen protection for organized labor leaders.
“The trade agreement implementation review process is still underway, but the United States has indicated its desire to see the agreement with Colombia enter into force as soon as possible,” Nkenge Harmon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, said in an e-mail.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will host heads of state from the Americas in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena this weekend for a meeting focused on regional cooperation.