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Cablegate: Colombia Signs Fta with Efta

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DE RUEHBO #4234 3301948
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R 251948Z NOV 08
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RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 9526
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RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 004234

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD PREL CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA SIGNS FTA WITH EFTA

REF: BOGOTA 4178

1. (U) SUMMARY On November 25, Colombia signed a Free Trade
Agreement with the four member countries of the European Free
Trade Association (EFTA) -- Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and
Liechtenstein. With total trade between EFTA countries and
Colombia at just over one billion dollars, the agreement's
strategic significance outweighs its commercial value.
Nonetheless, Colombia sees the agreement as a tool to further
strengthen ties with Europe and deepen trade relationships
with willing partners. Coming just days after having inked a
similar deal with Canada, Colombia is hopeful that its
aggressive push forward on trade will draw attention to the
stalled U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement. END SUMMARY

TRADE WITH EFTA: SMALL, BUT GROWING
-----------------------------------

2. (U) Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata, along
with his four EFTA counterparts signed the agreement in
Geneva. Plata told the press the agreement, "strengthens
Colombia's strategy to deepen relationships with Europe."
EFTA's exports to Colombia, which totaled 360 million dollars
in 2007, include pharmaceuticals, chemicals and machinery.
Colombia exported some 860 million dollars to EFTA countries
in 2007, including precious stones and metals, coffee and
fruit.

SWIFT AGREEMENT WITH BENEFITS FOR ALL
-------------------------------------

3. (U) After beginning negotiations in June, 2007, the two
sides concluded the fifth and final round on June 12, 2008.
Colombian industrial goods will enter EFTA countries
tariff-free, while Colombian processed agricultural exports
to EFTA countries will receive the same treatment as those
from the EU. Switzerland, which is responsible for the
lion's share of EFTA's trade with Colombia, gained
concessions on certain agricultural products, including wine,
dried meats, and cheese. The agreement also contains
investment provisions, particularly important to Switzerland,
whose companies, such as Nestle and Glencore, have large
investments in Colombia.

COLOMBIA MOVING FORWARD, U.S. STANDING STILL?
---------------------------------------------

4. (U) Colombia becomes the first Andean country to sign an
FTA with EFTA, and the fourth country in the Western
Hemisphere -- along with Canada, Mexico, and Chile -- to do
so. Coming on the heels of the FTA-signing with Canada,
Colombia's agreement with EFTA, while small in terms of
current trade volumes, underscores the seriousness Colombia
attaches to diversifying its trade partners and opening its
economy. Given that the U.S. is Colombia's largest trading
partner, news of other trade agreements only serves to focus
attention in the media and the business community on the fact
that the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement remains in
limbo.
BROWNFIELD

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