Opportunity in Colombia

From William Brownfield, U.S. ambassador to Colombia:

In 2007, North Carolina exporters sold more than $23.3 billion to world markets, an increase of 59 percent since 2002. That's good news for N.C. companies whose exports to some 200 foreign destinations support high-wage jobs across the state. According to the latest figures, more than 7,000 N.C. companies are selling internationally, 86 percent of which are small- and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

North Carolina stands to benefit from congressional approval of the pending FTA with Colombia. N.C. export sales to Colombia have jumped 195 percent since 2002, surging from $61 million to $181 million in 2007, making Colombia one of North Carolina's fastest-growing export markets. An FTA would create opportunities to further accelerate this relationship.

We already have trade relations between the U.S. and Colombia, but it's one- way free trade.

More than 90 percent of Colombian exports to the United States enter duty-free, but U.S. products face Colombian tariffs of up to 35 percent on nonagricultural products and much higher on many agricultural products.

A Colombia FTA would address this gap by providing equal market access. Once the U.S.-Colombia FTA begins taking effect, more than 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial products and more than half of current farm exports will enjoy duty-free entry into Colombia. Upon full implementation of the Agreement, all of Colombia's tariffs on U.S. exports will be eliminated.

For North Carolina, that means more sales of machinery, chemical products, fabric mill goods, computers and electronics, paper, agricultural commodities and much more. It also means more jobs and greater tax revenue for the state. According to the Business Roundtable, key sectors of N.C. exports would see increased sales to Colombia ranging up to 23 percent, with estimated duty savings for N.C. businesses exceeding $8 million.

Free trade is not only important for U.S. economic growth, but helps to ensure continued progress in building politically stable and growing economies.

In support of Plan Colombia, a U.S. aid assistance program started in 2000, the United States has invested more than $5 billion in combating the drug trade, which has sparked remarkable economic opportunities in the formal economy.

A U.S.-Colombia FTA is the next logical step to help Colombia consolidate and sustain its social and economic achievements, help U.S. businesses and Colombian consumers and reduce overall U.S. foreign assistance to Colombia.