While the pact languished, Colombia hired Washington lobbyists to drum up support and invited dozens of congressmen to tour the country. In April Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, reached an agreement with Barack Obama on a list of nine policies the country could implement to protect labour
rights in exchange for approval of the FTA. On October 12th Congress ratified the deal, as well as similar agreements with Panama and South Korea.
But two days earlier Juan Camilo Restrepo, Colombia’s agriculture minister, said the country was “not ready” for the effects of the FTA. “We’ve still got a long way to go,” he said, warning that small-scale rice and corn growers, dairy farmers and poultry producers needed to adapt quickly, so that when the “cold shower of the FTA hits them, it doesn't turn into pneumonia.”
Álvaro Uribe, who negotiated the agreement with George W. Bush, had set up a programme of subsidies to help farmers compete with cheap agricultural imports from the United States once the deal came into effect. But it soon became the centre of a corruption scandal in which payments meant for small farmers went instead to large landholding families. (The trial of Andrés Felipe Arias, the former agriculture minister who was in charge of the programme, coincidentally began the same day the FTA was approved.) Read more here.
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