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Colombia seeks free trade pact with four European nations

Colombia seeks free trade pact with four European nations

Colombia and the four member nations of the European Free Trade Association began talks Thursday aimed at drafting a trade agreement that would remove barriers on US$390 million (euro310 million) in annual commerce.
An agreement with the EFTA _ which includes non-European Union members Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein _ could be ready in a year, Colombian Trade Minister Jorge Humberto Botero said following the meeting in Bogota.
Currently the EFTA enjoys a nearly US$70 million (euro55 million) trade surplus with Colombia, mostly from sales of high-tech and manufactured goods. The group imports coffee, gold and other raw materials from the South American nation.
The talks are part of a worldwide campaign by Colombia to open up export markets and attract foreign investment. Bogota is nearing completion of trade deals with Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and hopes to start talks soon with Canada, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
"This may be the most intense trade negotiating period ever in Colombia's history," Botero said.
The government of President Alvaro Uribe is also anxiously waiting for the United States to ratify a landmark bilateral trade deal that would be Washington's biggest in the western hemisphere since the creation of NAFTA in 1994.
U.S. President George W. Bush notified Congress Aug. 24 of his intention to sign a deal with Colombia, which could happen as early as this month.
But eventual ratification by the House and Senate could be held up if Democrats, who have consistently voted against such deals, gain seats during November's midterm elections.
The conservative Uribe is Washington's strongest ally in Latin America and is counting on the trade deal to replace current trade privileges the United States grants to drug-producing Andean nations that expire in December.


Updated : 2021-03-06 09:44 GMT+08:00