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Remarks by the Ambassador to the U.S. Gabriel Silva, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Entry into Force of the Colombia-United States FTA


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May 15, 2012

Remarks by the Ambassador to the U.S. Gabriel Silva, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Entry into Force of the Colombia-United States FTA

Washington, DC, May 15, 2012. “Of course on a day like this, gratitude is the most important sentiment, and we have a lot of gratitude for all of you. Taking the risk of leaving institutions and people behind, I want to express the gratitude of the Colombian people and the Colombian government to all of you, but also especially to the U.S. Government, to President Obama, to Ambassador Ron Kirk, Ambassador Sapiro, Bennett [Harman], all your team at USTR, thank you very much for being trustable, efficient, courageous, firm partners in this process. I think they deserve a round of applause please.

Someone described this morning to me that having the FTA approved and implemented was like winning at a slot machine. You need to really have the three components in the same figure, the same place, and we were very lucky to have, not only the U.S. government in the right position, but most important the U.S. Congress.

I want to thank the US Congress, both the Senate and the House for what they did, in particular Speaker Boehner, Chairman Camp, our friend Chairman Brady, Senator Baucus, Senator Kerry and so many others that allowed us to have this treaty introduced and voted with sufficient majority to highlight that this is really a bipartisan achievement.

Also, the third piece of the puzzle or the third piece of the slot is the private sector. The U.S. private sector and the Colombian private sector really invested all their energies in making this happen. I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce, the Latin American Trade Coalition, the U.S.-Colombia Business Partnership and so many others. All the think tanks in Washington were active members of this effort to discuss and push forward what we are celebrating today.

I believe that the FTA represents the dawn of a new era and as someone that has been in this business for quite a while, because I was Ambassador the first time almost 20 years ago, it means a lot. Twenty years ago, and I won’t mention who was the guy who had this clever idea, but a congressman proposed that the way to end drug trafficking was to bomb Medellín. Of course, wisely the U.S. followed a different path, a path of cooperation, a path of friendship, a path of working together. 

And to see after 20 years of efforts, sacrifice, to see that we together, the U.S. and Colombia achieved this new level, this new status, this permanent relationship on the economic and trade front, for me personally it shows tremendous achievement and moves my heart deeply. When you have been working to enhance the bilateral relationship for years, this is like the Oscar; the FTA is the Oscar of diplomacy in the bilateral relations. I’m not a good actor, but in the end this is really for me a tremendous moment personally and for my country.

What does the FTA mean for Colombia and the U.S.? Of course it means a lot of business, much more than we expect, much more than we can imagine. If you see what has happened with other countries when they sign and implement an FTA, they never expected such a boom in exports, imports, trade and business opportunities. This is going to be huge and I’m ready to bet that we are going to double bilateral trade in three years. I could of course walk you through many of the opportunities that arise with the implementation of the FTA. You know them well and I won’t bore you with lists of products and lists of possible business. I only want to mention some less tangible benefits from the FTA; the most important, certainty. When we had the trade preferences they were subject to this political football in Congress and in bilateral relations, and so people didn’t know that they would be there next year or that they would expire in two years or so. Certainty in trade is critical. Now the FTA provides that certainty. 

The other non-material benefit but fundamental achievement with the FTA is stability, stability of the rules of the game. Now we know that we can work together and we have ways to solve disputes and to manage differences, and there are rules to do that. In a way an FTA is like a marriage, you have to be always negotiating. And the next benefit that I want to highlight from the FTA is predictability; you can predict the outcome, you can work in certainty, stability and predictability; you can plan and you can invest knowing the path we’re going to follow.

And finally of course the last word to characterize the FTA is opportunity, opportunity for Americans, for American workers, American businesses, for Colombians. And let me use just one example, one that most mothers love is flowers, Colombian flowers. The flower industry in Colombia generates around 200,000 jobs, very important for my country. But at the same time, the chain of value of flowers in America generates 250,000 jobs; there is a flower shop on every corner and there are thousands of jobs that depend on this import, and what better way to celebrate the World Trade Week than the entry into force of the FTA. But I want to finish just mentioning what for me is the really most relevant and fundamental achievement with the FTA: it solidifies our friendship and our strategic partnership. Thank you very much.”

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