Israel and Colombia this week signed in Jerusalem a free trade treaty to increase trade and promote investments in the fields of technology. The treaty which was reached after fifteen years of intense negotiations now needs legislative approval which should be accomplished by early 2014 according to Israeli political sources.
Colombian Minister of Commerce Sergio Díaz-Granados and Israel Economy and Trade minister Naftali Bennet signed the agreement at a special ceremony in the official residence of President Shimon Peres who received with full state honours visiting Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.
Peres and Santos held an hour long private talks before announcing the conclusion of the free trade treaty, which was followed by the signing ceremony.
Before the meeting President Santos anticipated he would be discussing with his Israel peer how to increase cooperation, trade and investments, and a review world affairs and international politics.
“It’s a good treaty to the benefit of both countries” said Israel sources’ underlining the record time in which the agreement was negotiated that was possible because of “the commitment from both sides and close relations of the two countries”.
The Colombian delegation described “the treaty as last-generation that goes far beyond trade”.
Under the terms of the agreement 70% of the two countries exports will be exempt of tariffs and customs duties as soon as the treaty becomes effective. The percentage will increase gradually in the following ten years until it covers the whole of bilateral trade.
Bilateral trade reached almost 700 million dollars last year, with an ample 78% surplus for Colombia. Israel sells mainly manufactured and high technology goods and services and Colombia provides items such as coal, coffee, emeralds and flowers.
Both presidents said they are hopeful that the free trade treaty will become a jumping board for cooperation in the private sector to promote trade and investments.
On his arrival to Tel Aviv in his first joint visit to Israel and Palestine, president Santos said the agreement would mean more jobs for Colombia, and a firm effort to promote peace and stability in the region.
The two governments also signed an agreement on air services which will help increase air traffic between the two countries and another one of technology exchange in science, research and bio-technology.
Colombia is a full member of the Pacific Alliance together with Peru, Colombia and Mexico, and is considered the most promising of regional trade blocks since it is business friendly, supports the private sector, promotes foreign investment and is geared to expand in the Pacific basin.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have free trade agreements with Mercosur.