PBI-Canada submission to Canada-Colombia free trade agreement annual report

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Peace Brigades International submission to the: Annual Report Pursuant to the Agreement Concerning Annual Reports on Human Rights and Free Trade between Canada and the Republic of Colombia

April 1, 2021

 CCoFTA and improved market access for products

While the Global Affairs annual report excludes investment issues, the reduction in tariffs has noticeably increased the trade in goods between Canada and Colombia.

Global Affairs Canada has highlighted: “Implementation of the CCoFTA removed key bilateral trade barriers and improved market access for both Canadian and Colombian products.”

In 2010, Canadian merchandise exports to Colombia totalled $644 million and imports from Colombia totalled $717 million (approximately $1.36 billion). By 2019, two-way merchandise trade totalled $1.8 billion (an increase of approximately $440 million).

Last year’s Annual Report also noted: “Bilateral merchandise trade has increased by approximately 30 percent overall since 2010, the year prior to the entry into force of the CCOFTA”

 Buenaventura port accounts for 60% of Colombian imports/exports by sea

About 1.12 million TEUs (cargo-carry export containers) moved through the port of Vancouver, British Columbia in 2019 and the port in Buenaventura, Colombia accounts for about 60 per cent of all Colombian imports and exports by sea.

It is fair to assert that given the increase in trade resulting from the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and the crucial role of the port in Buenaventura in imports/exports by sea that Canadian merchandise trade is transported through Buenaventura.

The impact of the port on human rights

PBI-Colombia has noted that the Association for Research and Social Action (NOMADESC) has pursued research to show how the port and infrastructure development are linked to human rights violations and the infringement of constitutional and ethno-territorial rights.

And the report Buenaventura: Dispossesion for Competitiveness, produced by the Inter-Church Commission on Justice and Peace and Mundubat in May 2015, has documented the impacts of the port on the community.

Key excerpts from that report note:

“In a study conducted by the National Business Association (ANDI) it is stated that Buenaventura is wanted as a trophy for drug traffickers: the more containers pass through the Port, the more opportunities there will be for the circulation of cocaine.”

“According to figures from the Colombian government, in the last four years, Buenaventura has been the municipality with the highest number of forced displacements in the country [with 23,609 displaced persons in 2011 increasing to 33,058 displaced persons in 2013]. Most of these surviving victims of violence are women who, according to the Constitutional Court have specific risks of gender due to displacement, not shared by men.”

“By virtue of [Article 7 of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization], the Afro-descendant characteristic of the Buenaventura population legally grants the communities special conditions of prior consultation… The development of the Buenaventura macro projects has not been consulted with the Afro-descendant communities. This has led Black communities to pronounce negatively regarding the development of the projects and numerous complaints have been filed for the eviction of the families that lived in the construction areas of the projects.”

“The magnitude of the international trade agreements that frame the claim to expand the Colombian market abroad, the dimension of the projects and of the groups of companies that participate in them against the extreme vulnerability of the affected population makes us face extremely unequal social actors and makes participation essential of the State as guarantor of the rights of the population at risk.”

“This worsening of the living conditions of the population of Buenaventura, despite becoming a development pole during the last decade, leads to question the Colombian State’s compliance with its duty to promote the human rights of the population of Buenaventura.”

Furthermore, PBI-Colombia highlighted this past February: “Social organizations including the ‘Nydia Erika Bautista’ Foundation for Human Rights (FNEB) accompanied by PBI, are fighting against the port expansion [in Buenaventura], reporting that it would destroy areas where they report common and watery graves.” 

The port and the 2017 civic strike

We also recall that there was a 22-day strike in Buenaventura in 2017 that protested investment in the port rather than the spending needed to build a local hospital and provide access to potable water. The Colombian government responded with the ESMAD riot police.


We note that the Canadian Embassy in Colombia visited Buenaventura in September 2019 and tweeted: “We had the privilege of being able to hear the testimonies of #LíderesSociales from #Buenaventura to get to know first-hand your worries and challenges. We will continue to monitor the situation and thank @PBIColombia for facilitating the visit.”

The next Annual Report Pursuant to the Agreement Concerning Annual Reports on Human Rights and Free Trade between Canada and the Republic of Colombia will cover the period January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

We ask that:

1- the Annual Report specify the total amount of Canadian imports/exports that were transported through the port in Buenaventura in 2020.

2- the Annual Report document the number of people killed in and displaced from Buenaventura in 2020.

3- the Annual Report acknowledge the gendered impact of displacement in Buenaventura in 2020.

4- the Annual Report acknowledge the impacts of the port on the majority Afro-descendant/Black population of Buenaventura.

5- the Annual Report affirm the importance of the continued participation of the Canadian Embassy in verification missions to Buenaventura.


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