Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Canada Signs Free Trade Agreement with Columbia

On November 21, 2008, Canada and Columbia signed a free trade agreement, an Agreement on Labour Cooperation and an Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.  The free trade agreement was signed as leaders gathers for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Peru.

Canada and Colombia will proceed with their respective domestic ratification processes. In Canada, treaties are tabled in the House of Commons for a period of 21 sitting days. During that period, Members of Parliament are able to review, debate, vote on a motion, or send the agreements to committee for further review. Once this process is completed, the Government can then introduce implementing legislation, which is also subject to debate in the House of Commons and the Senate. Once passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, the legislation must then receive Royal Assent from the Queen’s Representative, the Governor General, in order to become law.

Given the recent election in Canada and the stronger Conservative minority government (and the Liberal Leadership convention is planned for May 2009 to pick a new leader), it is expected that the Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act will become law after debate.  It is expected that the New Democratic Party will speak out against the Agreements on Labour Cooperation and Environmental Cooperation and that Peter Julian, MP will lead that discussion.

Canada has signed free trade agreements with the United States and Mexico (NAFTA), Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, the EFTA countries, and Peru.  Canada has concluded a free trade agreement with Jordan and expects that the free trade agreement will be signed soon.  Canada is negotiating free trade agreements with the Central American 4, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Panama, and the Caribbean Community.  Canada's free trade agreement negotiations with Singapore appear to have stalled.  Canada announced that it would negotiate a free trade agreement with India, but the signing of the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement has stalled.  Canada recently announced that it would start to negotiate an economic partnership agreement with the European Community.  Canada's free trade plans are expanding at a time with the United States appears to be pulling back.

In 2007, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia totalled more than $1.1 billion, with hundreds of Canadian companies doing business with Colombia. Colombia is also strategic destination for Canadian direct investments (mining, oil exploration, printing and education). Canadian merchandise exports to Colombia totalled $662.2 million in 2007; major exports include agricultural goods such as wheat, barley, and lentils, as well industrial products, paper products and heavy machinery. The agreement lifts tariffs on 98 per cent of Canada's exports to Colombia, including wheat, barley, lentils, peas, beef, paper products and machinery and equipment. The agreement also includes provisions to expedite the lifting of the beef ban (that has been in place since the outbreak of mad cow disease).

Canadian merchandise imports from Colombia totalled $473.5 million in 2007. Major imports consist of coffee, bananas, coal and fuel. As with other Canadian free-trade agreements, the deal prohibits Colombia from exporting to Canada supply chain management products such as eggs, poultry and dairy products.


As of 2007, the accumulated value of Canadian investment in Colombia was $739 million. This investment is primarily in the oil and gas and mining sectors, although important links also exist in the printing sector.

Pursuant to the agreement, Canada and Colombia will also urge their domestic professional bodies to recognize each other's certifications, particularly in engineering.

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak is Counsel at Lang Michener LLP and an adjunct professor of law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and teaches a course on NAFTA and bilateral trading arrangements.  She has reveiwed over 100 preferential trading arrangements for the Asian Development Bank and written a lengthy report.



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