A Spanish led EU delegation has offered strong support for the FTA with Colombia following recent visit to the country, Caracol Radio reported Thursday.
Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and chief of the European delegation, Jose Manuel Garcia, recently completed an investigative tour of several Colombian cities, following which he claimed that if the EU's parliament were to vote on the FTA now, the agreement would have sufficient support to become law.
Garcia's comments are based on receiving the support of various pro-FTA groups within the European Parliament, including the European Peoples' Party, of which he himself is a member, the Progressive Conservative party (dominated mainly by British conservatives) and the Socialists. He did however acknowledge that not all Socialists are supportive of the proposed agreement.
His recent trip to Colombia included meetings with President Juan Manuel Santos as well as various governmental authorities and social organisations. His aim was to learn more about the situation in Colombia, the business environment and the security climate.
In summary, Garcia said that he believes that the few remaining economic barriers to the FTA, such as agreeing a standardized way to market imported liquor, will resolve themselves once the agreement is ratified.
In terms of the political barriers to the FTA's ratification, the MEP was also extremely positive. Following his visit Garcia confirmed that "we have seen enormous progress in the areas of human rights and the protection of union members", both key criteria for the ratification of the agreement with the EU.
Garcia also praised Colombia's land restitution process, and gave special mention to the government's work with respect to the protection of human rights.
The MEP was also positive about the impact the FTA would have both in Colombia and in Europe but the agreement still requires approval from the EU's Council of Ministers and European Parliament. According to La Terra news network, the European Parliament will start reviewing the details of the proposed agreement in June.
Commercial representative for the EU delegation, Gonzalo Formy, noted that the agreement will provide those involved with more liberal acces to products such as "powdered milk and fatty cheeses", reiterating previous statements that the FTA aimed to reduce trading tariffs and improve mutual access to many goods and services.
The EU's ambassador in Colombia, Fernando Cardeza, explained that in addition to increased mutual economic benefits, the proposed FTA will also help participants to share legislative, judicial and governmental ideas.
Although the initial indications are of an extremely positive EU delegation visit to Colombia, Formy did admit that the FTA could be suspended in the event that human rights violations continue to take place in Colombia.