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Canada, Colombia conclude FTA talks

Canada has wrapped up talks with Colombia on the way to a free trade agreement (FTA) that’s expected to end the South American republic’s tariffs on some Canadian crops and ag goods.

The FTA is expected to make sure Canadian exporters aren’t put at a disadvantage vis-à-vis trading partners that have or are seeking preferential access to Colombia’s market, the federal department of foreign affairs and international trade said in a release Friday.

Several commodity and ag groups including Pulse Canada and the Canadian Wheat Board have in recent years urged Ottawa to put some added emphasis on such bilateral FTAs, relative to its focus on global free trade through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The groups have previously gone public with their concerns that other exporting nations, such as the U.S., were signing bilateral FTAs that jeopardized the competitiveness of Canadian commodities and products.

In Colombia’s case, its current applied tariff averages are 16.6 per cent for agricultural goods and 11.8 per cent for manufactured goods, the Canadian government said.

Tariffs on most Canadian industrial products such as paper, machinery and chemicals will be eliminated immediately when the FTA is implemented, Ottawa wrote.

Moreover, “Colombia will also eliminate tariffs on a majority of agricultural exports from Canada, including wheat, barley, peas and lentils. Products such as beef and beans will also benefit from immediate duty-free access within specified volumes.”

Other exports such as pork, canola, other oilseeds, animal fats, frozen french fries and whiskey will see their tariffs gradually eliminated over time, Ottawa said.

As well, the government said, Colombia will also eliminate the use of its price band mechanism on selected products, including wheat, barley and pork.

The Canadian Wheat Board, in a separate release Monday, said the new agreement will ensure Canadian wheat and barley growers get continued access to one of the fastest growing markets in Latin America, with average sales worth over $185 million per crop year.

On average, the CWB said, Prairie farmers export 362,000 tonnes of wheat and 56,000 tonnes of barley to Colombia per crop year. “This agreement means Canadian grain producers will not be placed at a commercial disadvantage relative to other nations trading with Colombia,” the CWB wrote.

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