Cablegate: Codel Thomas Delivers Hard Message to Colombians

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but Unclassified -- please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary. During his meetings in Bogota, Chairman
Thomas delivered a clear message that ATPDEA will not be
renewed and that the window for successfully negotiating a
U.S.-Andean-FTA was closing rapidly. President Uribe,
Agricultural Minister Arias and Trade Minister Botero all
argued that the security situation in Colombia merited
special consideration, but Chairman Thomas was clear that
while we could be creative within the framework of the
agreements already negotiated, new, special mechanisms were
out of the question. Chairman Thomas also held a press
conference during which he repeated these assertions. End

The Chairman,s Message

2. (SBU) During his meetings in Bogota, Chairman Thomas
delivered the same message: he was visiting Colombia, Peru
and Ecuador because he was worried about the current state of
play of the FTA negotiations and he wanted to tell this to
the leaders of the countries. He added that ATPDEA would not
be renewed by the U.S. Congress, therefore failing an Andean
FTA, Colombia would face the worst scenario: no ATPDEA, no
FTA, and Central America-DR, Mexico and Chile all enjoying
free access to the U.S. market. Thomas, third major point
was that the window for negotiating an Andean FTA was really
in late 2003 and early 2004. After a tough CAFTA fight, he
explained, it was difficult to imagine much support for
pushing through the Andean agreement, with its similarities
to CAFTA on sugar, labor, environment and agriculture.
Finally, Chairman Thomas made clear that the U.S. Congress
considered previous FTA,s as the template that had to be
followed and it would be impossible to approve any agreement
that featured radically different mechanisms, such as
permanent safeguards against distortions caused by internal
subsidies. Democratic Codel member Stephanie Tubbs-Jones
noted her opposition to CAFTA and was emphatic on the need
for a strong labor chapter. Reps. Shaw, Weller and Nunes
echoed the chairman,s messages.

Minister Arias
2. (SBU) Minister Arias emphasized the importance of
gaining special treatment for Colombian agriculture due to
the importance of the rural sector in the fight against drugs
and terrorism. Chairman Thomas responded by noting that
there are many countries asking for special treatment for
different reasons, but any agreement will have to fit into
the overall framework of what we have agreed with other
countries. Min. Arias pressed for the need for real access
to the U.S. market and a clear and agile mechanism for
handling SPS issues. He then concluded by complaining about
the lack of response to Colombian agricultural and SPS
proposals. Chairman Thomas responded that as long as they
are making proposals that don't fall into the framework of
what was done previously in other U.S. FTA's, then the U.S.
couldn,t move forward. The U.S. wants to move, but it has
to be in the context of opening the market. The Chairman
went on to say that delaying the negotiations is not to the
advantage of Colombia. Colombia has had a window of
opportunity to negotiate the FTA, but this is closing fast.

Minister Botero/Chief Negotiator Gomez
3. (SBU) Minister Botero responded to Chairman Thomas,
comments by stating that Colombia also faces political
realities and has to negotiate a deal that could pass in its
Congress. Botero also stated that while Colombia had
demonstrated political will to move the agreement forward, he
had not seen comparable will on the part of U.S. negotiators
due to the CAFTA approval process. Botero, like Minister
Arias, pointed out that the U.S. had yet to respond to many
offers on the table and until the GOC saw U.S. engagement, it
was difficult to put anything but the most conservative
offers on the table. Botero stressed the need for real
access to the U.S. market for Colombian agriculture. He
stated that without this, and the SPS permanent committee
needed to achieve this, then Colombia would gain very little
in the agriculture sector under an FTA. Chairman Thomas
committed to getting a response from the U.S. on Colombia's
agriculture proposals. FTA lead negotiator Gomez added that
the GOC was worried about the timetable and the lack of U.S.
response. He and Botero stated that the GOC was looking for
pragmatic solutions to the remaining issues, but both sides
had to engage to achieve those solutions and the U.S. was not
engaging. The key, according to Gomez, was a balanced
agreement where one side does not get primary products and
the other everything else. Gomez added that Colombia
understood it had to open up many markets, but in some areas
of agriculture, they had to insure the survival of some
domestic production to maintain the rural sector populated,
or else face increasing instability and insecurity.

President Uribe
4. (SBU) The President welcomed the Codel and thanked the
chairman for his efforts to support Colombia, especially
during the renewal of ATPDEA. He stressed the important link
between agricultural employment and security and explained
this was the reason why Colombia needed additional
flexibility to protect a basic group of products (corn,
chicken leg quarters, rice, beans, and oilseeds). The rural
sector was also important because it was a quarter of the
Colombian population, and there were many more in the cities
that depended on the sector and agro-industry for their
livelihood. Uribe added that he understood that a bilateral
FTA could not hinder the U.S.,s ability to use internal
supports for agriculture, but he felt that the agreement must
then allow countries some mechanism to offset the
distortionary effects of those subsidies. Chairman Thomas
responded that the Congress would simply not approve such
mechanisms, but he pledged to work with Colombia and use all
his creativity to find solutions for these issues that fell
within the existing framework created by previous agreements.
President Uribe also asked the Chairman,s assistance in
obtaining U.S. responses to the Colombian agricultural, SPS
and intellectual property offers. Chairman Thomas promised
to contact USTR upon his return to get the process moving.
Uribe also made a geopolitical argument about the importance
of the FTA, stating that Colombia was a strong supporter of
the U.S. while Brazil was trying to supplant the U.S.,s
leadership and Venezuela was trying to buy a leadership role
with cheap oil. Uribe also pointed out the instability in
the region and the negative signal that would be sent if the
U.S. were unable to conclude an FTA with as strong an ally as

5. (SBU) Congressman Weller asked President Uribe about
implementation of the peace and justice law. The President
responded that over 12,000 members of terrorist groups had
turned themselves in, of which 55 percent were AUC and 45
percent guerillas. The President defended the law, stating
that this time there would be penalties and no amnesty, like
there was for the M-19. Moreover, those who were solely
narco-traffickers would not have any benefits under the law,
and those who committed human rights abuses would have to
serve sentences and would have no amnesty or pardon. The
President also stated that extradition would be permitted
under the law and used the case of AUC leader Salvatore
Mancuso to demonstrate his point. The President suspended
the GOC,s consideration of the extradition so long as
Mancuso lived up to the terms of his demobilization. If he
were to violate them, then the President would allow the
extradition process to move forward.

6. (SBU) Congresswoman Tubbs-Jones raised the issue of
labor violence with the President. He responded that the
cornerstone of his administration was the concept of security
for everyone. He related that when he took power in 2002,
161 labor leaders were killed and 400 of 1096 mayors could
not exercise their duties because of guerilla threats.
Today, there might be one or two mayors that are having such
security problems and the Colombian government is doing
everything in its power to eliminate these problems. The
President added that this year only five labor leaders have
been killed, but that is five too many. His goal was to
eliminate violence against labor leaders, against mayors, and
against the civilian population. According to the President,
the only way to ensure continued support for his democratic
security program was to make sure that everyone shared in its

Press Play

7. (U) Chairman Thomas, comments during his press
conference received wide coverage in both print and
television. Front-page headlines in top business dailies
repeated his statement that ATPDEA would not be renewed and
his concern that the negotiations were not moving fast
enough. Minister Botero, in a statement published on the
presidency,s website, characterized the visit as positive
and highlighted the Chairman,s promise to seek U.S.
responses to Colombian offers on agriculture. The
Chairman,s message has also resonated with the business
community, who appreciated his frank appraisal of the


8. (SBU) Overall the visit was successful in ensuring the
GOC understands the political realities of trade
liberalization in Washington. Chairman Thomas' clear
explanation of what the U.S. was seeking helped the ministers
and President Uribe see our positions in a realistic light.
Post has already followed up with the Codel's Colombian
interlocutors to reinforce the message starting with a phone
call by the Ambassador to Minister Botero. We will continue
to follow-up before the next round in Miami. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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