Free trade with Europe

By bogotapost February 24, 2015
Photo: Rock Cohen

Photo: Rock Cohen

Irish lawmakers ratify EU-Colombia trade agreement despite concerns over human rights

On January 28, Ireland became the last country to ratify a trade deal between the European Union, and Colombia and Peru.

The deal was subject to continued opposition from Irish citizens groups and Irish political party Sinn Fein before the eventual debate.

Irish lawmakers passed the motion to ratify the trade pact by 67 votes in favour to 46 opposed on January 28 this year.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) pact – which has been years in the making – had drawn criticism from human rights groups, in part because of “Colombia’s long history of serious human rights violations.”

Colombia and the EU began negotiations on the agreement in 2007, as part of discussions which also included Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. In 2009, the scope of the agreement was reduced to focus on Colombia and Peru and in 2010 discussions were successfully concluded.

The agreement was not ratified by the European Commission and the country’s respective governments until 2012. A human rights provision was added in response to criticism. The deal then had to be ratified by Colombian congress and all of the EU member states, of which Ireland was the last to give its approval.

Ireland’s passing of the bill therefore enacts the agreement for all member states and the two Andean nations.

In economic terms, Colombia already benefited from tariff-free access to the EU market for almost all products, thanks
to the GSP scheme, which allows lower income countries to import products to the EU tariff-free.

The difference between that scheme and the free trade agreement is that the GSP scheme is an EU policy, meaning it could be subject to change by the EU at any time. But the free trade agreement provides a legal guarantee. It will also improve EU import tariffs for certain important products, such as bananas.

By Charlotte Ryan & Mark Kennedy