Canada says concludes Colombia free trade talks

Sat Jun 7, 2008 5:47pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Saturday it had concluded free trade negotiations with Colombia, including talks on related labor and environmental issues, reaching a comprehensive deal that would expand market access for goods and services from both countries.

Once implemented, the pact would improve access for farm and industrial goods and services trade between Canada and Colombia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said in a news release posted on its Web site.

The deal would also provide for more secure investments, it said. Talks on the agreement began in July 2007.

The deal "will help solidify ongoing efforts by the government of Colombia to create a more prosperous, equitable and secure democracy," Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson said.

Last year, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia reached $1.14 billion, the ministry said. Canada's direct investment stock in the Andean nation amounted to $739 million.

The government said the labor cooperation agreement commits both countries to respecting the core standards set by the International Labour Organization, such as the elimination of child labor and workplace discrimination, as well as ensuring the right to collective bargaining.

"This agreement, like the one that was signed by our government in Peru last week, contains some of the most comprehensive labor provisions to be found in any agreement anywhere in the world," Canadian Minister of Labour Jean-Pierre Blackburn said.

The agreement on the environment obliges Canada and Colombia to comply with and enforce their domestic environmental laws and refrain from relaxing them to encourage trade or investment, the news release said.

The agreements face legal and parliamentary reviews in both countries. After a 21-day review period, draft legislation will be submitted for approval by lawmakers.

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(Reporting by Frank McGurty; Editing by Eric Walsh)