The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which is awaiting approval by the U.S. Congress, would severely impact Colombian small farm producers and households, according to a new study commissioned by the Oxfam International. The study found that, under the existing trade framework, Colombian small farm producers and households—the population most affected by Colombia’s internal conflict— would respectively lose 16 percent and 10.5 percent of their income.
In an event jointly organized by the Carnegie Endowment, Inter-America Dialogue, and Oxfam America, Luis Jorge Garay and Fernando Barberi, two of the authors of the report, highlighted their findings. They were joined by Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue, and Stephanie Burgos, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam America. Carnegie’s Eduardo Zepeda moderated the discussion.
One of the chief arguments made in the study is that the agreed FTA framework is inequitable, and U.S. interests are favored over Colombian interests. Garay argued that the FTA negotiations did not take into account Colombia’s stages of development, poverty and inequality, and its economic and political constraints. Barberi pointed out several examples of the asymmetrical nature of the FTA:
Given these asymmetries, Shifter questioned why, despite obvious losses for small farm households, the Colombian politicians would continue to support the FTA. He suggested an examination of the trade agreement in the long run, taking into account the potential impact on domestic conflict and terrorism, might show benefits to both Colombia and the United States.
Zepeda suggested that, if substantial asymmetries are common in bilateral trade negotiations, it might be beneficial for developing countries to seek multilateral trade agreements instead. Barberi agreed that multilateral agreements would give developing countries more power during trade negotiations, since they would be able to voice their concerns forcefully and collectively.
The study suggested that the potential impact of the FTA on Colombian small farmers and households is substantial.
Zepeda argued if the figures of the study are correct, then the scale of the impact on small farm economies in Colombia would call for a domestic policy response to address the concerns of the most vulnerable section of the population.
Julio Guzman of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) commented that a study done by IADB showed exactly opposite results, i.e. that small farmers and households would gain from the FTA. There is a need for a comprehensive study to explain the different outcomes of studies on the FTA, argued Zepeda.
You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.