Marking the 10th anniversary of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Published by Brent Patterson on

Colombian lawyer Yessika Hoyos Morales came to Ottawa in May 2009 to speak against the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Photo: Toronto Star.

The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will soon be marking its 10th anniversary given it came into force on August 15, 2011.

Canada announced in August 2002 that exploratory discussions would begin with Andean countries (including Colombia) toward an FTA. Negotiations began with Colombia on June 7, 2007 and the agreement was signed on November 21, 2008.

One of those who came to Canada to speak against the free trade agreement was Yessika Hoyos Morales who is a lawyer with the PBI-Colombia accompanied José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR).

During a visit to Ottawa in May 2009, she stated: “If Canada ratifies the free trade agreement it will give a message to Colombians and to the whole international community that Canada supports a government that violates human rights.”

The full text of her comments to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade can be read here.

An interview with her can also be seen here: part 1 and part 2.

Despite this, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government passed the implementation act for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement with the support of the opposition Liberals on June 14, 2010.

The Liberals sought an annual human rights report as part of their support, but notably it specifically excludes the deal’s foreign investment chapter and focuses instead on the potential impacts of tariff reductions.

The first full report on the deal concluded: “It is not possible to establish a direct link between the CCOFTA and the human rights situation in Colombia. There is no evidence of a causal link between reductions in tariffs by Canada in accordance with the CCOFTA, and changes in human rights in Colombia.”

Notably, the negotiations between Canada and Colombia took place during a period of serious human rights violations now in the news.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which was set up to prosecute crimes committed during the armed conflict, recently found that 6,402 civilians were killed by the military between 2002 and 2008 and falsely passed off as enemy combatants.

Furthermore, Global Witness has documented that at least 250 land and environmental defenders have been killed in Colombia since 2011.

PBI-Canada hopes to work with allies to mark this anniversary, reflect on the past 10 years, and to develop recommendations moving forward.

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