Colombia's congress has postponed its decision on the ratification of a free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, apparently reflecting a worsening public sentiment toward free trade deals in the Latin American country, a government official here said Thursday.
The recent failure by Colombia's Chamber of Representatives to ratify the South Korea-Colombia FTA came shortly after the Colombian senate, the upper house of congress, approved the bilateral trade pact.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bilateral free trade deal, signed in February 2013, may not be implemented before the year's end, noting the agreement must again be ratified by the senate before it can be reviewed by the lower house of the Colombia congress.
It must also be reviewed for constitutionality under Colombia's Constitution before it can be implemented, the official added.
South Korea's unicameral parliament ratified the trade agreement in April.
The official said the delayed ratification of the Korea-Colombia FTA may reflect a growing public opposition in Colombia not particularly to the Korea-Colombia FTA, but to all free trade deals in general.
"Worsening economic conditions appear to have had a negative impact on the public sentiment toward FTAs, prompting a growing voice against free trade pacts, especially during recent elections in Colombia," he said.
Colombia's incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos was barely re-elected in a run-off on Sunday after he and the other candidates failed to secure a majority of votes in the May 25 presidential election.
"I understand there had been a growing voice against FTAs in the lead-up to the election, but not particularly against the FTA with South Korea," the official said. "We are continuing to speak with the Colombian government through our diplomatic channels for an early implementation of the FTA."
Earlier reports cited possible damage to Colombia's automobile industry as a reason for the recent delay in ratification of the FTA by the Colombian legislature.
The official dismissed the reports, noting Colombia's automotive industry is nearly nonexistent, only producing vehicles with imported knock-down kits or parts.
Once the deal is implemented, South Korea will eliminate its import duties on 96.1 percent of all products from Colombia over the next 10 years with Colombia removing its import tariffs on 96.7 percent of products from South Korea over the same period.
South Korea exports mainly products such as automobiles and auto parts to Colombia, and imports coal and coffee from the Latin American country.
In 2013, South Korea's bilateral trade with Colombia came to US$1.55 billion. (Yonhap)