Constitutional Aspects of FTAs: A Colombian Perspective

Date01 November 2014
Published date01 November 2014
Constitutional Aspects of FTAs:
A Colombian Perspective
Liliana Lizarazo Rodríguez,* Philippe De Lombaerde,**
Juan Felipe Ortiz Riomalo,*** Andrea Parra**** and
Angelika Rettberg*****
Abstract: Colombia has recently negotiated trade agreements with the EU, the US and
some other countries. This article explores the compatibility of these agreements with
constitutional rights in Colombia, by looking at recent case-law of Colombian courts.
This Andean country is, in our view, a particularly interesting case because of the
coincidence of a new constitutional context (with, on the one hand, an important rights
catalogue and new instruments to protect fundamental rights, and on the other hand,
liberal economic principles), a Constitutional Court with activist features and a particu-
lar socio-political situation.
I Introduction
In the slipstream of most Latin American countries, Colombia implemented trade
liberalisation policies in the early 1990s.1These policies were part of broader eco-
nomic and institutional reforms which coincided with political developments (partial
peace processes) and the adoption of a new Political Constitution (PC) in 1991. The
programme of economic opening-up (apertura) was conceived as a gradual pro-
gramme in the 1980s,2but it was accelerated from 1991. Trade liberalisation was
accompanied by the liberalisation of the labour market, the foreign exchange market,
capital f‌lows, trade in services and by a re-orientation of monetary policy. Colombia
* Independent Legal Advisor, Belgium.
** Associate Director, United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration
Studies, Bruges, Belgium.
*** MA student in Economics, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.
**** Doctoral candidate, Université de Liège, Belgium.
***** Associate Professor, Political Science Department, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.
The authors thank Julie Pérez for research assistance, in the preparation of the Annex, as well as
Mariana Gutiérrez and Susana Sierra (students at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá).
1M.R. Agosín and R. French-Davis, ‘La liberalización comercial en América Latina’, (1993) Revista de la
CEPAL 50, 41–62, 44; A. Franco and P. De Lombaerde, Las empresas multinacionales latinoamericanas.
El caso de la inversión colombiana directa en Ecuador, México, Perú y Venezuela (Tercer Mundo, 2000),
at 36.
2L.J. Garay, Apertura y protección: evaluación de la política de importaciones (Tercer Mundo, 1991);
J.A. Ocampo, ‘La internacionalización de la economía colombiana’, in M. Urrutia (ed.), Colombia ante
la economía mundial (Tercer Mundo, 1993), at 17–65, 45.
European Law Journal, Vol. 20, No. 6, November 2014, pp. 824–847.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
also pushed for a deepening of the Andean integration process and signed a free trade
agreement (FTA) with Mexico and Venezuela (G-3). Since then, a combination of
economic and trade policy instruments has been implemented, including relatively
successful trade promotion policies and the active pursuit of the negotiation of FTAs
to secure market access.3,4
Trade relations with the EU were and are typically governed by wider agreements
consisting of three pillars: trade, political dialogue and cooperation.5And consistent
with the interregional negotiation strategy of the EU,6adopted since the Rio Summit
of 1999, the negotiations of an Association Agreement with the Andean Community
(CAN) were announced at the Vienna Summit in 2006. However, when the CAN
negotiation block disintegrated in 2008 (as Bolivia and Ecuador abandoned the
process), and taking into account that the trade pillar was fundamental to the remain-
ing countries, it were Colombia and Peru that convinced the EU to change its
negotiation mandate and to accept the negotiation of bilateral trade agreements.7This
way, the EU moved away from its characteristic interregionalist strategy, with a
strong region-building component,8in the direction of the ‘new bilateralism’.9The
negotiations of the Colombia/Peru-EU FTA started after the signature of the
Colombia-US FTA and both processes are clearly linked.10 At the EU-Latin America
and the Caribbean (LAC) Summit in Madrid, the negotiations formally concluded11
and the treaty was signed in June 2012, and approved by the European Parliament on
11 December 2012; the Colombian Congress approved the treaty by Law 1669/2013.
Before the entry into force of the treaty, trade relations were—since 2006—governed
by the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)-plus system, based on Regulation
(CE) 980/2005, which was aimed at giving privileged access to products originating in
certain countries that are able to demonstrate that they adhere to UN and Interna-
tional Labour Organization (ILO) rules on human and labour rights, environment
3P. Ochoa, ‘Export Promotion Policies and Instruments in Colombia’, (1998) 2 Integration & Trade 4/5,
133–145; C. Volpe, Odyssey in International Markets. An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Export
Promotion in Latin America and the Caribbean (IADB, 2010); P. De Lombaerde and L. Lizarazo,
‘Fine-Tuning Export Promotion Policies in Colombia’, in M. Dumont and G. Rayp (eds), International
Business, Not as Usual (Garant, 2011), at 117–135.
4Colombia started to negotiate FTAs with Turkey in 2011, and Japan in 2012.
5Parlement Européen, «Négociation d’un accord d’association entre l’Union européenne et la
Communauté andine», Recommandation du Parlement européen du 15 mars 2007 à l’intention du
Conseil sur le mandat de négociation d’un accord d’association entre l’Union européenne et ses États
membres, d’une part, et la Communauté andine et ses pays membres, d’autre part, Bruxelles (2007),
C301E, 13/12.
6S. Santander, Le régionalisme sud-américain, l’Union européenne et les États-Unis (Editions de l’ULB,
2008), at 192.
7A. Parra, ‘El interregionalismo europeo y la integración regional latinoamericana’, (2010) 6 Entramado
2, 96–105.
8P. De Lombaerde, G. Pietrangeli and M. Schulz, ‘EU Support to Latin American Regionalism’, in C.
Franck, J.-C. Defraigne and V. de Moriamé (eds), The European Union and the Rise of Regionalism
(Bruylant, 2009), 247–261; G. Pietrangeli, ‘Supporting Regional Integration and Cooperation World-
wide: An Overview of the European Union Approach’, in P. De Lombaerde and M. Schulz (eds), The
EU and World Regionalism. The Makability of Regions in the 21st Century (Ashgate, 2010), at 9–43.
9K. Heydon and S. Woolcock, The Rise of Bilateralism. Comparing American, European and Asian
Approaches to Preferential Trade Agreements (UNU Press, 2009).
10 J. Altmann, F. Rojas and T. Beirute, Europe-Amérique latine et Caraïbes: bilatéralisme vs
bi-régionalisme? Construction d’un nouveau rapprochement stratégique (FLACSO, 2010).
11 Comisión Europea, Acuerdo comercial entre la Unión Europea (2011), available at, 22/12.
November 2014 Constitutional Aspects of FTAs
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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