The Colombia FTA: A Less Attractive Face for Trade?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into being in December 1994, has been one of the more important free trade agreements of its time. The NAFTA pact was signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in hopes of strengthening the prevailing commercial climate and promoting trade among the three member countries. NAFTA has been the model for other trade agreements, including the pending Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Both NAFTA and the Colombian FTA have been controversial in terms of market access, creation of jobs as well as the labor and environmental regulations applicable to them.

Free trade apologists argue that the Colombian FTA will produce more jobs and boost a sluggish global economy through the creation of enhanced market competition, leading to innovation and improved products. Members of various sectors that have been crushed and displaced might beg to differ, and claim that in Mexico, while free trade arguably has revamped the manufacturing sector, it has caused the agricultural industry to progressively wilt. While Congress debates whether to pass or to continue blocking the Colombian FTA, a growing number of FTA critics cites the overall negative effects that NAFTA has had on Mexico, claiming that Colombia will be comparably harmed by the ratification of the FTA.

NAFTA Tidbits
Mexico is one of the United States’ most important trading partners, as it ranks third in U.S. imports after Canada and China. Essential to Mexico’s financial welfare is its reliance on the U.S. as a dominant source for its foreign direct investment and infrastructural development. The U.S. benefits from the large scale of its agricultural exports to its NAFTA partners which has increased by $4 billion since 1994, with real growth of 95.2% to Mexico and 41% to Canada. U.S. export performance has been exceptionally high due to a strong dollar as compared to other world currencies.

Certainly, the economic relationship between the United States and Mexico has ostensibly strengthened since 1994 with the advent of NAFTA. The two countries have collaborated in forming development links such as the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), whereby they advance their joint security and prosperity through a common security strategy and the enforcement of economic growth and competitiveness goals.

NAFTA also has proven to be controversial in many of its economic and social ramifications. Its drafters assumed that the governments involved in formulating and implementing the agreement would behave rationally, markets would respond prudently, and that the agreement would pave the way for Mexico’s entrance into the developed world. Critics of NAFTA claim that the real impact of the agreement has been to destroy the social fabric of existing workers’ rights and the democratic accountability of government authorities, and argue that NAFTA has principally benefited large corporate interests at the expense of small and subsidized farmers. At the end of the NAFTA drafting process, many of its critics speculated that inequality within particular economic sectors in member countries would rise. What was not foreseeable was that the economic gap would steadily increase between Mexico and its northern partners. Additionally, the expropriation of foreign direct investments in Mexico, the imbalance of imports compared to exports, poorly enforced environmental regulations, growing unemployment rates in both the United States and Mexico, negative effects on immigration, and the loss of a competitive edge in Mexico’s agricultural sector, were all unanticipated consequences when NAFTA was being put together.

U.S.-Mexico Relations Influence Colombia
NAFTA has been a model for the creation of other Latin American related free trade agreements, specifically the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which remains unratified. The U.S.-Colombia FTA was signed in 2006, and if finally passed, the agreement would be the most comprehensive trade pact in the Western Hemispheric since NAFTA. It would conform with many of NAFTA’s market access stipulations for trade in consumer and industrial products, textiles and apparel cooperation, expanded access to service markets, greater protection of intellectual property rights, internationally recognized labor rights, environmental protection commitments, and an open telecommunications market. Due to their numerous similarities, Democratic critics of NAFTA believe that a Colombia FTA could bring about the same economic, social, and environmental disconformities, such as bankrupted farmers, the loss of millions of industrial jobs, and the erosion of health and safety standards.

Both Mexico and Colombia have a particularly close relationship with the United States. Mexico shares a 2,000 mile border with its North American neighbor, as well as extensive interconnections through the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, Mexico has achieved a priority trade status as the world’s second largest consumer of American imports. As one of the United States’ closest allies in Latin America, the U.S. has assisted Colombia through Plan Colombia, a more than $6 billion counter-narcotics and security operation aimed at eradicating coca crops and shutting down trafficking networks, as well as promoting efforts to dismantle leftist guerrillas operating in that country, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombia, although much smaller than Mexico, is an essential market for exports of U.S. goods, as it imports $6.7 billion in U.S. goods and services annually. Mexico and Colombia not only depend on material assistance from the United States, but are also two of the last countries in the region which have remained relatively close allies to the U.S.

The most revealing flaws in the two agreements underscore the vagueness and inadequacy of the pacts regarding their abilities to provide proper enforcement and administration. Distressing to those who oppose the Colombian FTA are the acute parallels between the Colombian FTA and NAFTA, and how little Washington and Bogotá took NAFTA’s increasingly apparent problems into account when drafting and negotiating the later agreement. NAFTA’s concepts of minimal trade barriers and tariffs might seem uniquely attractive to countries that wish to sign future trade agreements. However, opponents of the Colombian model cannot help but question what improvements can be made in order to save the country from the same fate affecting Mexico.

New Market Access
New and expanded market access has always been the grand allure of free trade agreements with the United States. For Mexico, new market access under NAFTA required it to replace import licensing requirements on U.S. agricultural products with either a quota or an ordinary tariff rate that would be phased out over a ten year period. For instance, Mexico and the United States gradually liberalized their bilateral trade regarding sugar, thereby eliminating all restrictions on trade of that commodity over a gradual transition period. The Colombian Free Trade Agreement’s market access regulations are almost an exact replica of those issued under NAFTA. As with NAFTA, where fifty percent of U.S. products entered Mexico duty-free and where the remaining tariffs were eliminated over the following ten years, the Colombian FTA will follow similar guidelines. But, different from NAFTA, the Colombian trade pact uses a more radical approach within its markets. Over eighty percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products, fertilizers, agro-chemicals, and information technology equipment will enter Colombia duty-free and an additional seven percent will graduate to that category within five years. As compared to the very large volume of U.S.-Mexico trade, U.S. goods exported to Colombia in 2005 only amounted to $5.4 billion, making Colombia a much smaller but still viable market for U.S. products.

Laura Carlsen, a highly regarded researcher for America’s Policy, stated in her article, which related Mexico’s lessons to Asia: “the government conceded considerable ground to obtain the access that they claimed would serve to reorient the Mexican economy which was outwardly based on its absolute and comparative advantages.” Washington has maintained the upper hand in choosing the exact nature of the access it will provide to its trading partners, while requiring total liberalization for the products it hopes to export. At the same time, the U.S. demands protection in the form of quotas and non-tariff barriers for its own products. This built-in U.S. advantage has forced Mexico to lose its competitive edge, which will cause it to continuously suffer at Washington’s hand, as countries such as China offer cheaper labor and transportation costs.

Export Boom Causes Deficiencies
Supporters of NAFTA repeatedly praise the increase of exports to member countries. However, such praise ignores the impact of imports on the trade balance, which can and has contributed to lower employment rates at home, and has hindered the creation of jobs. Although increases in exports tend to create jobs, this trend may be negated when imports reach high levels, as such imports could displace goods that otherwise would have been produced in the home country by domestic workers. In 1998, the United States accumulated an export deficit with Mexico and Canada that increased 281 percent, to $85 billion, as compared to a $30 billion deficit in 1993.

Although trade is supposed to move workers from low-productivity, low-wage import-competing industries into high-production export jobs with better wages, NAFTA led to job losses in all fifty U.S. states. Jeff Faux, a journalist for the Economic Policy Institute, exclaims in his important piece, Revisiting NAFTA that, “growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada have pushed more than 1 million workers out of higher-wage jobs into lower-wage positions in non-trade related industries. Thus, the displacement of 1 million jobs from traded to non-traded goods’ industries reduced wage payments to U.S workers by $7.6 billion in 2004 alone.” An increase in the impact of the trade deficit on wages affects workers exposed to foreign competition, limits manufacturing sector jobs, and adds to a surplus in supply of service sector workers, resulting in wage depression.

Market access provisions may not have an entirely negative effect on the trade relationship between the U.S. and Colombia. However, when these provisions are combined with new rules on investment, procurement, and services, U.S. investment may begin to shift overseas, in turn hurting American workers. NAFTA’s inherent flaws in market access regulations have been incorporated in the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Colombia’s fate could parallel that of Mexico, mostly due to the similarity of the new market access regulations, an increased radicalism regarding tariff barriers, and duty-free implementation practices that will most likely increase Colombia’s prospects for economic impairment.

Open Service Markets – The Fall of the Agriculture Sector
NAFTA’s U.S. drafters believed that in order to enhance the efficiency of the market, trade barriers should be fully removed in order for American firms to take full advantage of benefits across all sectors, and those firms should be provided with the right to invest in Canadian and Mexican government enterprises. Colombian authorities must agree to eliminate, or use with restraint, requirements that allow them to apply “unfair” penalties to U.S. companies for terminating their relationships with local commercial agents. Openness could potentially be profitable for all member countries in NAFTA as well as Colombia. However, with open markets, inequality, at least theoretically, becomes an issue in almost every trade settlement, therefore attracting close examination.

NAFTA’s market regulations were drafted to open Mexican markets to Canada and U.S. exports, gradually constraining the robustness of protectionism in each others’ foreign markets. Opening markets moderately was to be a positive initiative when the trade pact was originally drafted. What was not considered at the time was the relatively small size of the Mexican economy and the difficulties that would result in attempting to impact the economies of its northern neighbors. Before the implementation of NAFTA, between 1991 and 1993, the Mexican unemployment rates slightly rose from 2.6 percent to 3.1 percent.

As Manufacturing Grows, Agriculture Industries Fall
Mexico’s potential labor supply has been matched by an impressive rate of job growth in non-agricultural occupations: 33.9 million jobs to 39.1 million jobs from 1995 through 1999 (3.7% annually). However, employment in Mexico’s agricultural sector has decreased from 25.7 percent in 1993 to 17.3 percent in 2002, as a result of the large inflow of manufacturing products from its trading partners. An additional disadvantage to Mexico has been the amount of capital that was spent on upgrading the country’s telecommunications system which included equipment in the work place. Unfortunately for the Mexican budget, all of these investments were necessary in order for the country to stand a chance against the competitive power of the North American market.

Import increases have had a substantial effect on the United States, particularly regarding the job market. Agricultural exports to Mexico have increased by 195.3 percent, far surpassing general export growth. Shortly before NAFTA in 1993, Mexico only purchased 8 percent of U.S. agricultural exports, a rate which grew in 2005 to over 15 percent. With the explosion of exports from the United States to its southern neighbor, Mexico’s competitive capacity in the agricultural sector alarmingly has weakened.

A representative from the Michigan Farm Bureau remarked that “an advantage for Michigan agriculture is that most of the imports we have seen from Mexico do not compete with Michigan products, they tend to be seasonal vegetables, which don’t really compete in the Michigan market in our window of production.” Alarmingly, thirty percent of Mexico’s farm jobs have disappeared since the trade pact went into effect, which has translated into 2.8 million farmers being pushed out of their fields by foreign competition. Mexico’s relatively feeble agricultural trade performance, when it comes to the United States, is partly a result of U.S. agricultural subsidies. The U.S. government subsidizes its farmers to the tune of $24 billion a year. Additionally, Washington has authorized an eighty percent increase in subsidies over the next ten years as a result of the 2002 Farm Bill. Such developments make it possible for American farmers to produce and sell below the price of production; therefore, it is out of the question for Mexico and Colombia to equably compete with the U.S. on a level playing field.

Just as Mexico’s agricultural sector has been hard hit, Colombia’s agricultural production vis-à-vis the U.S. also will likely be at a disadvantage. Along with the problem posed by agricultural subsidies, Colombia’s corn and bean crops will suffer greatly. Under the pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. will export two million tons of yellow corn to Colombia, jeopardizing the jobs of 300,000 farm workers in the Colombian domestic corn industry. The bean market in Putumayo, Colombia is considered to be one of the largest in the country, with 2,200 acres of beans being planted for internal consumption. Under the agreement, it is estimated that 15,000 tons of beans will enter Colombia duty free, in turn destroying the local bean market. The American Farm Bureau Federation predicts that this arrangement could potentially provide $910 million in gains annually for American agriculture. It remains unclear whether Colombia will experience gains, or whether its fate will emulate Mexico’s appalling agricultural record.

The Rights of the Citizens
Due to all of the complicated provisions stipulated by the pending FTA, safety, environment and the enforcement of labor regulations will require compliance. The text of both NAFTA and the Colombia FTA state that workers’ rights must not be forfeited to encourage trade or investment. In both agreements the signatories reaffirmed their obligations to meet the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO), and ensure that their domestic laws will guarantee labor standards that are at least parallel to internationally recognized labor principles.

In contrast to the Colombian FTA, NAFTA carried out a separate agreement on workers rights, the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). The NAALC was created in order to ensure the presence of mutual obligation and responsibilities, making member countries agree to promote and comply with their own laws through a policy of shared accountability. The NAALC targets three categories to promote the agreement: the first concerns the freedom of association and the protection of the right to organize, to bargain collectively, and to strike; the second enforces the prohibition of enforced labor, minimum employment standards, elimination of employment discrimination, and compensation in cases of injuries and illnesses; the final sector protects labor rights for children and employment standards pertaining to minimum wages.

The NAALC agreement (as proven by the NAFTA experience), is likely to fall short of efficiently enforcing the pact and conceivably will not use its authority to directly promote workers’ rights. The methodology for filing labor complaints before the NAALC is a convoluted process. First, complaints must be filed through the National Administrative Offices (NAO) of another country, followed by reviews, reports, and the need for ministerial consultation if the complaint appears to have merit. The case will then be brought before a five person panel of experts from the three member countries where an action plan is devised. As under NAFTA, if the plan is ignored, fines are filed against the offending government, and/or the companies involved. The predicament encountered as a result of filing complaints involving the NAALC is that, like under NAFTA, most of the time the complaints will deal with workers rights to organize, which is not an issue adequately protected by the agreement.

All the NAALC is able to do with these cases is to recommend an investigation, and if the NAO’s recommendations are not equivalent to the panel’s rulings in terms of their gravity, no sanctions or fines would be imposed upon offenders. To date, twenty-three complaints of workers violations have been issued through the NAFTA mechanism. These have involved big name companies including General Electric, Honeywell, Sony and Spring. Fourteen cases have been originated by Mexico, seven in the United States, and two in Canada. Critics of the NAALC have concluded that the agreement was not created to harmonize labor standards in the three NAFTA member countries. On account of this shortcoming, it fails to create tribunals and institute other appellate procedures available to individuals to redress grievances. Most importantly, it has been found that the NAALC lacks an independent oversight committee to fully protect and ensure the proper treatment of workers.

No Pressure, No Results
Worse still than NAFTA, the Colombian FTA does not include separate legislation promoting workers-rights as has been done in the NAALC. Instead, the Colombian FTA simply promises to respect the principles embodied in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. In this declaration, Colombia must commit to uphold child labor laws, and enhance methods to improve labor administration through social dialogue, occupational safety, and health compliance. Commenting on the workers’ rights regulations in the Colombian FTA, Thomas Buffenbarger, of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers stated, “high-road competition based on skills and productivity can benefit workers, but low-road competition based on workers’ rights drags all workers down into a race to the bottom.”

Regrettably, labor was not a major focus during the two years of intense negotiations over a Colombian FTA. Under the agreement’s terms, Bogotá will be able to roll back its labor laws without the threat of fines or sanctions. Drafters of the agreement declined to change a single labor provision, including improving the labor chapter, or providing a guarantee that the country would take measures to prevent extra-constitutional acts against trade unionists. The only enforceable labor-rights requirement in the Colombian FTA is that the government would be obliged to carry out its own national labor code at a given time. Additional enforcement measures are not explicitly cited in the dispute settlement procedure, making the regulations unenforceable. Critics of the FTA insist that the ambiguity regarding the workers’ rights regulations found in the Colombian agreement is unacceptable, considering the country’s abysmal labor conditions and the shocking number of trade unionist assassinations that have occurred in recent months. High ranking union leaders, in fact, have been brutally murdered in Colombia over the past twenty years.

Unenforceable Measures lead to Unionist Assassinations
Since 1986, about 2,500 trade unionists have been assassinated (exceeding the total number of murdered union officials of all other countries ), with 200 murdered during the period of the negotiation of the Colombian FTA. Only 3 percent of these previous occurrences have been successfully prosecuted. The percentage of trade union membership of all Colombian workers is less than 5 percent, and almost all Colombian public workers are excluded from engaging in collective bargaining agreements due to the privatization of large segments in the public sector. Colombian workers are faced with abnormal obstacles in the workplace almost on a daily basis, often receiving death threats due to their trade union activity.

Collective bargaining seeks to maintain a balance between business objectives and the competitiveness of the work force through the establishment of reasonable and equitable goals that should bolster workers’ rights and the integrity of their earnings. Human rights violations often occur during the preliminary stages of union organization negotiations and when strikes are being called to defend legitimate rights. In 2005, union assassinations left seventy workers dead, a figure which increased in 2006 to seventy two unionist assassinations.

Although state-sponsored protection may be responsible for some of the variation in assassination rates, these government schemes still fail to provide substantial protection or any protection at all to workers. The Colombian government has been accused of accounting for twelve percent of human rights violations against union workers, including arbitrary detentions, break-ins, and assassinations.

The NAFTA’s NAALC and the Colombian FTA lack sufficiently comprehensive provisions to enforce workers rights. This results in the competition of Mexican and Colombian businesses in investment programs, further contributing to a weak labor relations system in the country. Considering the violence that underscores Colombia’s labor rights history, the proposed FTA has fallen short of the objectives needed to even minimally protect workers’ rights, as well as safeguard them from being assassinated.

Environmental Obligations
Over the past decade, the inadequacy of Mexico’s and Colombia’s environmental regulations has become an important political counter that affects its production distribution, and disposal phases. As with its labor standards, NAFTA created a side agreement regarding the environment called the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). Attempting to broaden narrowly-focused regulations, the NAAEC addresses trade and environmental issues, and partners with the North American Development Bank (NADBANK) to fund projects such as border pollution reduction and maintenance policies. Under the proposed Colombian FTA, the parties commit to objectives set out by Congress in the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

Member countries must effectively enforce domestic environmental laws, encourage high levels of environmental protections, avoid the weakening and reduction of environmental standards in order to increase trade and investment, as well as ensure fair and transparent proceedings for administration of environmental and labor protection laws. Along with the TPA’s provisions, the Colombian pact also includes an Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) which aims to strengthen the environmental capacity in the country, and pledges to establish an Environmental Cooperation Commission. The problem with the NAAEC and the ECA is that both agreements only obligate countries to enforce their own environmental standards (similar to the aforementioned labor standards).

The dilemma posed by NAFTA and the Colombian FTA concerning their environmental regulations is that both trade agreements obviously value environmental issues much less than trade and investment provisions. National environmental regulations often times are disguised as barriers to trade, making their enforcement less likely. Environmental policies can be downgraded by trade and investment strategies which tend to emphasize production and physical infrastructure, but which also contribute to the acceleration of trends in environmental degradation.

Inadequate Infrastructure-Building Capacities
Optimistically, NAFTA has created the “Border 2012 Program.” The program was initiated to assist border area environmental management and in turn has generated numerous well regarded initiatives that protect the environment and public health. Unfortunately, the Border 2012 Program is dominated by U.S. federal agencies which have failed to provide systematic programming regarding long term commitments on the part of member countries. The Border 2012 Program, along with other post NAFTA initiatives, is often neglected by the government and are deficient in funding programs due to the slow process of citizen submissions. Financing for EPA border projects was threatened in August 1999 by the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee, which voted to cut EPA’s border infrastructure fund, an essential financial mechanism for certified projects, from $100 million to $50 million.

The lack of environmental regulations and enforcement in NAFTA’s NAAEC has led to prophecies of similar outcomes in the Colombian FTA, which require member states to follow their own environmental standards, no matter how weak or strong they may be. This is insufficient for monitoring the Colombian environment, which is in need of persistent conservation efforts. The rapid destruction of the upper Amazon basin, one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world, has already lost nearly 150,000 kilometers of forest in recent years. As with NAFTA, the Colombian FTA will carry as few environmental regulations as possible in order to attract U.S. companies who are interested in containing costs in the production of goods and services. Cheap production almost mandates the use of harmful pesticides and toxic chemicals, as well as the disposal of pollutants with minimal safeguards. No reputable environmental group has endorsed the Colombian FTA; instead groups such as Amazon Watch, American Lands Alliance Forest Campaign, and Greenpeace U.S.A have joined forces to actively oppose the agreement.

Both agreements invest reforms with the ability to provide national and transactional corporations with the means to exploit natural resources such as fisheries, water, and minerals. The environment can be threatened by these weak agreements when they are unable to fund positive projects that can sustain ecological procedures. The present regulations simply do not place sufficient pressure on corporations to do right when it comes to the environment. Rather, it gives them room to minimize environmental considerations.

On the Right Track, but Room for Improvement
Elements in both NAFTA and the Colombian FTA have potential, but lack the framework or the will to solve internal conflicts within the agreement. Upon NAFTA’s drafting, the initial intentions were to benefit the three signatories, and this has been successful in a variety of aspects. In 1995, only a year after the implementation of NAFTA, Mexico, along with the rest of Latin America experienced economic turmoil as the peso fell to record lows. When the peso crashed, Mexico’s foreign exchange reserves fell to about $3 billion, and a short-term debt of $40 billion was registered in the following year. Faced with these events, the United States rushed to provide Mexico with a $52 billion dollar bailout package, on the condition that Mexico agrees to implement radical adjustment programs in order to reduce its external deficit and to restore its domestic savings.

NAFTA has instituted a useful provision with its member states that utilizes safeguards against import surges. These safeguards were implemented in order to conserve sanitary and phytosanitary measures, protect human, animal, or plant life from health risks, as well as apply grade and quality standards to all Mexican, U.S., and Canadian products. Additionally, NAFTA has been successful in developing two new institutions, including the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), which assesses and certifies environmental infrastructure projects along the border, and the North American Development Bank (NADBANK) which funds the projects and also backs up community adjustment assistance programs.

Recognizing how important it is to assist signatory governments in promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and adjusting to liberalize trade, the trade committees plan to discuss programs for small and medium-sized enterprises and rural farmers, and programs to improve transportation infrastructure and telecommunications. In Colombia AECOM, an international development firm, implemented the USAID-funded Trade Capacity Building Support Program (TCBS), which encourages public and private sector institutions to define and implement priority reforms in the areas of trade, investment policy and institutional adjustment.

AECOM strived to cover a wide range of trade and investment areas and designed projects to remove policy rigidities. Its drive to start these programs was to endorse the Colombian government in reaching successful implementation of the Colombian FTA. However, what is needed within these negotiations are prospects of pursuing and further developing these projects ten, or fifteen years down the road, if and when the trade pact has been approved and implemented in a seemly fashion. Active government policies are needed in assessing domestic technological capabilities, infrastructure modernization, and the infusion of time and money to deal with human capital growth. The United States, Canadian, Mexican, and Colombian governments must continue to promote greater integration through investments in road, rail, aviation, and energy to endorse solid growth and development. But at the very least, the implementation of these policies should be carried out in an environmentally conscious manner so as to embed this process into each of these countries’ everyday systems.

Conclusion: An Unknown Future
The U.S.’s liberalization efforts, at least when it comes to Mexico, have proved to be uninspiring and unsustainable. Washington brought significant advantages in implementing a free trade program in Mexico, just as it is likely to have in Colombia. For both the Mexican and Colombian governments, President-elect Barack Obama has suggested possible renegotiations which will strengthen the pacts, eliminate their weaknesses and add more enforceable, labor and environmental standards. Such hopeful results in revamping and launching a new free trade agreement that will bring advantages to both of its signatories are not guaranteed to be successful. This is due to the long list of issues that will be tackled in January when Obama takes office. Although he carries somewhat of an anti-free trade reputation, skeptics believe that it is doubtful whether he will re-open talks to vigorously revise NAFTA or launch major revisions of the Colombian FTA. In light of this, President Uribe is desperately looking for an alternative to the unpopular U.S.-Colombia FTA. Uribe has recently met with Japanese Prime Minister, Taro Aso, and Chinese President, Hu Jintao. With both Japan and China, Uribe has negotiated a trade investment pact, in hopes of entering the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). However, deals with Japan and China are financially incomparable to the business deals regarding investments and the manufacturing sector that are able to come out the U.S-Colombian FTA. If renegotiations are not successful, the consequences should not solely rest on Barack Obama, but also on the Colombian government for not creating policies that allow for change in a trade cycle that has become increasingly important in the Western Hemisphere.

In order to help rebuild the agricultural sector in Mexico and to assure its success when that model is absorbed into a Colombian FTA, policies already in place, such as enforcing market matters, protecting weak industries through government procurement policies and technology transfer mechanisms, will still need to be reworked. A move forward in fixing the agreements will also require Mexico and Colombia to maintain resilient and vigilant, qualities that will benefit all member countries.