Official: Trade deal with Colombia yielding economic benefits

A trade deal between the United States and Colombia has yielded more jobs and exports to the Latin American nation, according to the nation’s top trade official.

The free-trade agreement turned 2 years old on Thursday, and U.S. trade officials touted the deal’s benefits for the U.S. economy.

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The U.S.-Colombia pact, they say, has generated jobs through an increase in manufacturing exports such as transportation equipment, petroleum and coal products, along with computer and electronic products.

Meanwhile, farmers and ranchers have seen growth in their exports, including in pork, beef, dairy products, soybeans, rice and grapes.

“As we mark a second year of expanded trade between the United States and Colombia, American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses are continuing to see important benefits from this agreement,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

“We will continue to work closely with the Colombian government to unlock new opportunities for increased exports from the United States,” he said.

“At the same time, we will build on the progress made to date by Colombia to improve respect for labor rights and press for further steps to ensure the full implementation of the Labor Action Plan."

On that front, House Democrats sent a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos expressing concern about violence against workers there.

They asked the Colombian government to investigate the recent bombing of a union headquarters.

"We recognize that steps have been taken to improve protection of union leaders and members, but ask that the Colombian government, through the National Protection Unit, significantly strengthen these protective measures,” wrote members of the Congressional Monitoring Group.

"We continue to be deeply concerned about the high levels of anti-union violence and labor rights violations in Colombia."

In 2013, U.S. goods exports to Colombia totaled $18.6 billion, up 30 percent compared with 2011, according to the USTR.

At the same time, goods imports were down 6.5 percent and the goods deficit declined by 65.8 percent.

Colombia is the third largest purchaser of U.S. agricultural products, and to that end exports increased more than 34 percent compared with 2011, to $1.51 billion.

U.S. manufacturing exports to Colombia were up 32 percent compared with 2011, to $4.3 billion.

Exports of petroleum and coal products rose 101 percent, to $2.8 billion, computer and electronic products were up 31 percent to $0.6 billion and transportation equipment increased by 46 percent to $0.4 billion.

The U.S. and South Korea also hit their two-year anniversary in March. Both trade deals went through Congress at the same time in October 2011. 

The trade office said noted that U.S. goods exports to Korea in March hit a record $4.4 billion, up $839 million (23.8 percent) from February  and up $511 million (13.3 percent) from a year earlier.