The Minister of Commerce has debunked the statement of President Gustavo Petro, who claimed this week that they were “renegotiating the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.” Minister German Umaña clarified during the Colombian Business Congress, an event organized by ANDI in Cartagena, that what is being done is “reviewing the FTA.” In this sense, Umaña stated that there is no formal request for renegotiation.
Renegotiation vs. Review
The issue is more than just a semantic matter. Renegotiation involves changing some agreed points in the FTA. For this, the US side needs to endorse these changes in Congress. On the other hand, reviewing doesn’t imply any changes in the wording but an interpretation formulated by the administrative commission.
“There is no such drama being stirred up in this matter because we are not requesting renegotiation at this moment. We are asking for balance and negotiation from those administrative commission teams,” clarified the head of the Commerce portfolio.
German Umaña didn’t want to contradict the words of the Colombian president. “We are in a review process to agree on a negotiation within the terms of the FTA, and that’s what President Petro said,” concluded the minister.
Clarifying President Petro’s Corn Example
“We know that there are subsidies, internal aids, and other measures with equivalent effect in the food sector and food production sector within the scope of the agreement. Like the corn President Petro spoke about, where the fact that these subsidies exist surely creates distortions in competitiveness, and we need to restore balance. In other words, as domestic producers, we have to compete on the same terms as foreign producers, by removing the subsidies that exist in North America or Europe, because that creates conditions of unfair competition,” stated the minister, pinpointing the corn example that Gustavo Petro presented this week during the meeting with coffee farmers in Huila.
Umaña also discussed FTA non-compliances. For instance, he indicated that in services and public procurement, the expectations for providing business services, established in 2011 when the FTA was signed, haven’t been met.
Unfavorable Context for Renegotiation
Experts had already expressed doubts after the president’s initial statements about “renegotiating the FTA” mainly due to the US context. In an election year, they saw it as highly unlikely that this renegotiation could gain approval from the US Congress, which is essential for the American side if any point of the agreement were to be renegotiated.
In this sense, German Umaña wanted to clear up doubts and clarify that the government isn’t renegotiating. With the idea of defending national interests and enhancing the country’s competitiveness, the minister continued to explain the different points announced by President Petro that would be reviewed.
Regarding the environmental issue, Minister Umaña pointed out that “it’s crucial that neither an environmental nor labor issue can be challenged by any investment under international tribunals. Our water, our air, our wind, our nature come first, and that’s what we’re proposing in terms of including this issue in investment protection treaties and avoiding imbalances between foreign investors.”