Tens of thousands of shopkeepers on Wednesday agreed to open their shops again after an agreement with the government about recently passed anti-contraband laws.
The agreement ensures to address the concerns of some four million traders affected by a controversial anti-contraband law they have claimed persecutes small and media size retailers by limiting the right to import to a few large corporations.
The law intending to combat criminal sellers that was approved on Tuesday seeks stronger penalties for those who sell contraband or pirate merchandise, with penalties up to 16 years in prison.
Traders operating in low income shopping districts across Colombia depend on contraband or pirate merchandise that, in spite of being illegal, provides poor and lower-class Colombians with products like shoes and clothing that would not be affordable for them without piracy.
However, according to the retailers, their dissatisfaction with the law was not because it prohibits the selling of contraband, but favored monopolist imports that have forced smaller merchants to depend on illegal imports.
After tens of thousands of shopkeepers and employees took the streets of several Colombianj cities on Wednesday, government representatives and a Senate committee listened to the complaints of these traders and promised to take measures to address the alleged import cartel.
Workshops will take place to review certain aspects and they ensure that measures will be adopted in order to prevent commercial monopolies and restrictions preventing the sale of certain products will be assessed and gradually implemented.
The agreement furthermore stipulates that a table will be installed to study possible reforms that could be made to the bill. Any reforms would need to be submitted by July 20 2015.
“The Government will take effective measures to eliminate monopolistic barriers as to facilitate the development of small businesses and cooperatives or associations,” said Minister of Industry and Trade, Cecilia Alvarez.
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