Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Should Canada Link Trade Agreements with Other Aspects of International Law?

Canada has been negotiating a free trade agreement with Columbia. Four FTA negotiating rounds were held in Lima (July 16-20, 2007); Ottawa (September 4-7, 2007); Bogota (October 1 to 5, 2007); and Lima (November 26-30, 2007), with Canada, Peru and Colombia participating. Canada has concluded its negotiations with Peru and the Columbia negotiations are still underway.  For more information about the negotiations, please click on the following link -

On March 1, 2008, Columbia killed a Colombian rebel (Raul Reyes) inside Ecuador.  This has lead to instability in the region as Mr. Chavez of has moved tanks to the Venezuela-Columbia border.  Both Venezuela and Ecuador have recalled their Ambassadors in Columbia.

What should a country such as Canada do in response?  If this was a political assassination, Canada should have a problem with this sort of behaviour and condemn the killing.  If the killing was in self-defense, Canada should be asking whether this was a justified use of self-defense or whether other national security defense principles can be applied.

In any event, the killing should raise questions concerning the appropriateness of Columbia as a preferred trading partner for Canada.

There are legitimate trade-related questions to be asked.  If Canada signs a free trade agreement, Canadian businesses should gain access to the Columbian market and Canadians will be in Columbia to conduct business.  Further, another expected and desired result of a free trade agreement is increased foreign direct investment - meaning Canadian companies will make investments in Columbia. 

If, after the free trade agreement is concluded, Columbia either allows political assassinations or engages in behaviour that would create instability in the region, this would put Canadians and Canadian investments at risk.

Canada should investigate this situation to protect the interests of Canadians (even though Canada is far away from Columbia).  Canada should also consider negotiating strict provisions to protect Canadians from these sorts of risks.  If Columbia will not negotiate, Canada should stop its negotiations of the free trade agreement with Columbia.

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