Order Code RS22419
Updated September 21, 2006
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement
M. Angeles Villarreal
Analyst in International Trade and Finance
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
On February 27, 2006, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Colombia’s
Minister of Trade, Industry, and Tourism, Jorge Humberto Botero, announced the
conclusion of a bilateral free trade agreement. On August 24, 2006, President Bush
notified the Congress of his intention to sign the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion
Agreement (CTPA). The CTPA is a comprehensive trade agreement which, if ratified,
would eliminate tariffs and other barriers in goods and services trade between the United
States and Colombia. A free trade agreement with Colombia was originally intended
to be part of a broader U.S.-Andean free trade agreement (FTA), including Colombia,
Ecuador, and Peru. The labor and sugar provisions may be among the more
controversial of the agreement. It is unknown when CTPA implementing legislation
may be introduced in the U.S. Congress; it is likely that Congressional consideration of
the agreement may not take place until early 2007. This report will be updated as events
On February 27, 2006, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Colombia’s
Minister of Trade, Industry, and Tourism, Jorge Humberto Botero announced the
conclusion of a U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA). The two countries
finalized the text of the agreement on July 8, 2006.1 On August 24, 2006, President Bush
notified the Congress of his intention to sign the CTPA. It is a comprehensive trade
agreement which, if ratified, would eliminate tariffs and other barriers in goods and
services trade between the United States and Colombia. The United States views the
agreement as a building block in its strategy to advance free trade throughout the
The United States Trade Representative notes that agreement texts are subject to legal review
for accuracy, clarity and consistency, as well as to ensure consistency between the English and
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The CTPA negotiations began in May 2004, when the United States, Colombia,
Peru, and Ecuador participated in the first round of negotiations for a U.S.-Andean free
trade agreement (FTA).2 After thirteen rounds of talks, however, negotiators failed to
reach an agreement. Peru continued negotiations with the United States on a bilateral
basis and concluded a bilateral agreement in December 2005.3 Colombia and the United
States continued their negotiations for a bilateral agreement in January 2006.
Negotiations with Ecuador are stalemated.
U.S.-Colombia Economic Relations
With a population of 46 million people, Colombia is the third most populous country
in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Colombia’s economy is relatively small
compared to the U.S. economy. Colombia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 was
$123 billion, approximately one percent of U.S. GDP ($12.5 trillion in 2005). Its
economy has grown over the past three years. GDP growth was 5.2% in 2005, but it is
expected to decrease slightly to 4.8% in 2006 and 4.3% in 2007.4
The United States is Colombia’s leading trading partner. In 2005, 39% of
Colombia’s exports went to the United States, and 29% of Colombia’s imports were
supplied by the United States. The second most significant trading partner for Colombia
is Venezuela, accounting for 7% of Colombia’s imports and 10% of Colombia’s exports.
Other significant trading partners for Colombia are Mexico, Ecuador, Germany, and
Colombia accounts for less than 1% of total U.S. trade. Colombia is the 28th largest
U.S. export market ($5.41 billion in 2005) and the 31st largest source of U.S. imports
($8.85 billion in 2005). The dominant U.S. import item from Colombia is crude oil (38%
of U.S. imports from Colombia in 2005), followed by coal (7% of total), and other
petroleum oils (6% of total). The leading U.S. export items are corn (4% of U.S. exports
to Colombia in 2005), vinyl chloride (4% of total), and office and data processing
machinery parts (3% of total). U.S. imports have increased notably since 1996, from
$4.27 billion in 1996 to $8.85 billion in 2005, a 107% increase (see Table 1). The U.S.
trade deficit with Colombia was $3.43 billion in 2005.
Table 1. U.S. Merchandise Trade with Colombia, 1996-2005
U.S. Trade Balance
Source: USITC Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb at [http://dataweb.usitc.gov].
See CRS Report RL32770, Andean-U.S. Free-Trade Agreement Negotiations, by M. Angeles
See CRS Report RS22391, U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, by M. Angeles Villarreal.
Based on estimates and forecasts by The Economist Intelligence Unit, March 2006.
The United States currently extends duty-free treatment to imports from Colombia
under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), a regional
trade preference program that expires in December 2006.5 In 2005, 51% of all U.S.
imports from Colombia received preferential duty treatment under the ATPDEA. Of
those, the leading imports were certain subcategories of crude oil and cut flowers.
U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia on a historical-cost basis totaled
$3.39 billion in 2005. The largest amount of U.S. FDI in Colombia in 2005 was in
manufacturing, which accounted for about 19%, or $1.35 billion, of total U.S. FDI in
Colombia. The second largest amount, $630 million (20% of total), was in mining,
followed by $447 million (13%) in wholesale trade.6
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) notes that Colombia applies tariffs
in the 0-5% range on capital goods, industrial goods, and raw materials; 10% on
manufactured goods with some exceptions; and 15% to 20% on consumer and “sensitive”
goods. It also applies variable levies (“price bands”) to certain agricultural products to
assure that import prices do not fall below a minimum price. There are problems with lax
customs enforcement and legal cases pending against suspected counterfeiters, as well as
counterfeit pharmaceutical products. There are some concerns that the Colombian
government does not provide patent protection for new uses of previously known or
patented products. Colombia maintains certain barriers to services trade, but the USTR
notes that some liberalization has occurred in telecommunications, auditing, and energy,
and to a lesser extent in accounting, tourism, legal services, insurance, distribution
services, advertising, and data processing. Although total foreign ownership is allowed
in most sectors, Colombia places some restrictions on foreign investment, such as registry
with the Central Bank’s foreign exchange office.7
Key Provisions of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion
The comprehensive free trade agreement would eliminate tariffs and other barriers
to goods and services. The following paragraphs are based on a summary of the
agreement text as provided by the United States Trade Representative.8
Market Access. Upon implementation, the agreement would 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.
Remaining tariffs would be eliminated ten years after implementation. Colombia will join
the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which
The Trade Preference Extension and Expansion Act of 2006 (H.R. 5070), introduced in the
House on March 30, 2006, would extend trade preferences under the ATPDEA until December
Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, see [http://www.bea.gov].
United States Trade Representative (USTR), 2006 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign
Trade Barriers, pp. 163-174.
Office of the United States Trade Representative, “Free Trade with Colombia: Summary of the
Agreement,” February 27, 2006.
would remove Colombia’s trade barriers to information technology products. The CTPA
would make the preferential duty treatment for U.S. imports from Colombia under the
In agriculture, the agreement would grant duty-free treatment immediately to certain
farm products from both countries, including high quality beef, cotton, wheat, and
soybean meal. Other products that would receive immediate duty-free treatment are key
fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, peaches, and cherries, and many processed
food products, including frozen french fries and cookies. Some other products would
receive improved market access; these include pork, beef, corn, poultry, rice, fruits and
vegetables, processed products, and dairy products. The United States and Colombia
worked together to resolve sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to trade in agriculture,
including food safety inspection procedures for beef, pork, and poultry. These
commitments are reportedly written in two separate side letters on sanitary and
phytosanitary measures that would be attached to the FTA.9
The sugar provisions of the agreement would triple the U.S. quota on sugar imports
from Colombia the first year. Colombia would be allowed to export an additional 50,000
metric tons, over the 25,000 metric tons it may currently export, of sugar to the United
States during the first year the agreement is in effect. Colombia’s additional amount of
exports gradually would increase to 60,000 metric tons 15 years after the agreement is in
effect. Some U.S. tariffs on Colombian sugar would remain in place.10 Sugar was among
the most sensitive issues in the negotiations for the United States and was settled in the
final part of the talks.11
In textiles and apparel, products that meet the agreement’s rules of origin
requirements would receive duty-free treatment immediately. The United States and
Colombia agreed to state-of-the-art customs cooperation commitments that would allow
for verification of claims of origin or preferential treatment and denial of preferential
treatment or entry if the claims cannot be verified. The rules of origin requirements are
generally based on the yarn forward standard to encourage production and economic
integration. A “de minimis” provision would allow limited amounts of specified thirdcountry content to go into U.S. and Colombian apparel to provide producers in both
countries flexibility. A special textile safeguard would provide for temporary tariff relief
if imports prove to be damaging to domestic producers.
The agreement includes comprehensive rules of origin provisions that would ensure
that only U.S. and Colombian goods could benefit from the agreement. The agreement
also includes customs procedures provisions, including requirements for transparency and
efficiency, procedural certainty and fairness, information sharing, and special procedures
for the release of express delivery shipments.
World Trade Online, Inside U.S. Trade, “Colombia, U.S. Trade SPS Commitments in Two Side
Letters to Free Trade Agreement (FTA),” March 10, 2006.
American Sugar Alliance (ASA) Press Release, “U.S. Sugar Producers Comment on Colombia
Trade Agreement,” February 27, 2006.
World Trade Online, Inside U.S. Trade, “Completed Colombia FTA Would Triple Sugar
Access in First Year,” March 3, 2006.
In government procurement contracts, U.S. companies would be granted nondiscriminatory rights to bid on contracts from a broad range of Colombian government
ministries, agencies, public enterprises, and regional governments. The agreement
includes provisions that require the use of fair and transparent procurement procedures,
such as advance notice of purchases and timely and effective bid review procedures.
Services. In services trade, Colombia would grant market access to U.S. firms in
most services sectors, with very few exceptions. Colombia agreed to exceed its
commitments made in the WTO, and to dismantle services and investment barriers,
including measures such as requiring U.S. firms to purchase local goods or to hire
nationals rather than U.S. professionals. Colombia also agreed to eliminate its
requirements on U.S. companies to establish a branch in order to provide a service and
penalties for terminating their relationships with local commercial agents. The affected
services sectors would include telecommunications, financial services, construction, all
professional services, and energy. In telecommunications services, all users of a network
would be guaranteed reasonable and non-discriminatory access to the network. U.S.
phone companies would have the right to interconnect with Colombian dominant
suppliers’ fixed networks at nondiscriminatory and cost-based rates.
Investment. The agreement includes investment provisions intended to establish
a stable legal framework for U.S. investors operating in Colombia. The agreement would
protect all forms of U.S. investment in Colombia, including enterprises, debt, concessions
and similar contracts, and intellectual property. The agreement grants investors the right
to establish, acquire and operate investments in Colombia on an equal footing with local
investors and investors of other countries. It draws from U.S. legal principles and
practices to provide U.S. investors in Colombia substantive and procedural protections
that foreign investors have under the U.S. legal system, including due process protections
and the right to receive fair market value for property in the event of an expropriation.
Protections for U.S. investments would be backed by a transparent, binding international
arbitration mechanism. Investor-state arbitration would be available for claims by
investors of breaches of investment agreements.
IPR Protection. The agreement would provide intellectual property rights (IPR)
protections for U.S. companies. The agreement’s IPR protection provisions include
protection for U.S. trademarks, copyrighted works in a digital economy, and patents and
trade secrets. The agreement also provides for penalties on piracy and counterfeiting.
Dispute Settlement. The core obligations of the agreement, including labor and
environmental provisions, are subject to dispute settlement provisions. These provisions
include procedures for openness and transparency and emphasis on promoting compliance
through consultation and trade-enhancing remedies. An enforcement mechanism includes
monetary penalties to enforce commercial, labor, and environmental obligations of the
Labor and Environmental Provisions. The labor and environmental
obligations of the agreement are included in the core text. Parties would be required to
effectively enforce their own domestic labor and environmental laws. These obligations
would be enforceable through the agreement’s dispute settlement procedures. The
agreement includes procedural guarantees that would ensure that workers and employers
would have fair, equitable, and transparent access to labor tribunals. The labor provisions
could be among the more controversial of the agreement.12 The environmental provisions
have not been controversial thus far.
Under Title XXI (Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002) of the Trade
Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-210), the CTPA would be considered by the Congress on an
expedited basis that is limited in debate and with no amendments. It is unknown when
CTPA implementing legislation may be introduced, but it appears unlikely that Congress
would consider the agreement this year. Some Members of Congress have suggested that
consideration of the trade agreement is likely to be delayed, possibly until early 2007.13
President Alvaro Uribe, a strong supporter of a trade agreement with the United
States, was re-elected in Colombia’s presidential elections held on May 28, 2006.
Colombia is pursuing an FTA with the United States to assure access to the U.S. market.
It has preferential access now under the ATPDEA, but that access is scheduled to expire
at the end of December 2006. An FTA would lock-in those preferences and provide
additional duty-free treatment. In Colombia, supporters of the agreement include the
textile and flower industries. These industries export a significant portion of their
production to the United States and could experience major losses if the CTPA is not
ratified and the ATPDEA is not renewed. Opponents of the agreement say that thousands
of Colombian agriculture workers would lose their jobs because they cannot compete with
subsidized agriculture products coming from the United States.14
In the United States, much of the business community supports a CTPA. The
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), for example, states in its 2006 policy
agenda that one of its key objectives is the congressional approval of free trade
agreements being negotiated with countries in the Andean region. The U.S. Chamber of
Commerce issued a statement saying that the agreement “... opens the door to huge
opportunities for American businesses and agriculture in Colombia.”15 On the other hand,
a number of other groups, such as the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, and American Friends
Service Committee, generally oppose the idea of regional trade agreements with Andean
countries. These opponents generally argue that these kinds of trade agreements cost the
U.S. economy jobs, erode protection for the environment and workers’ rights, and impose
extraneous commitments on countries. U.S. sugar producers also have voiced concern
about the adverse cumulative impact the CTPA and other trade agreements would have
on U.S. sugar producers.16
For more information on the issue of labor rights in trade agreements, see CRS Report
RS22159, DR-CAFTA Labor Rights Issues, by Mary Jane Bolle.
Brevetti, Rosella, International Trade Daily, “Kolbe Sees Peru Pact Delayed Until Next Year,”
September 8, 2006.
Noticias Financieras Miami, “Colombian President to go to U.S. to be in Talks for Free Trade,”
February 10, 2006.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “U.S. Chamber Hails U.S.-Colombia Trade Deal,” February 27,
ASA Press Release, February 27, 2006.