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Last Updated: Monday, 27 February 2006, 17:30 GMT
Colombia seals trade deal with US
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Colombia has clinched a free trade deal with the US after nearly two years of talks, US officials have confirmed.

The deal is designed to advance free trade, promote economic development and combat cocaine trafficking, US trade representative Rob Portman said.

Talks between Washington and Andean nations Colombia, Peru and Ecuador began back in May 2004.

But the US and Colombia have been at loggerheads over duty-free quotas on agricultural products.

Colombia has been seeking more access to the US sugar market, while wanting to protect its own rice, poultry and other farming activities.

A deal with Peru was signed late last year and negotiations with Ecuador are ongoing.

'Worth the effort'

The US and Colombia have now agreed a duty-free quota for 26,000 tonnes of US chicken leg quarters, with a duty of about 70% on imports above that level.

But Colombian poultry farmers fear the agreement will open the market to a flood of US chicken leg imports.

We feel we are bringing a very good agreement back to our country
Jorge Humberto Botero, Colombian commerce minister

"The (Colombian) poultry industry could be wiped out in a couple of years," said Jorge Enrique Bedoya, executive president of Fenavi, Colombia's poultry trade association.

The US will give Colombia 50,000 tonnes of additional access to the US sugar market, rather than the one million tonnes requested.

Colombia says it is keen to preserve and expand jobs in the rural sector as it struggles to wipe out drug trafficking.

The US sees trade as a way of creating new jobs to fight Colombia's drugs trade which accounts for much of the US's cocaine supply.

"We feel it was worth the effort and that we are bringing a very good agreement back to our country," said Jorge Humberto Botero, Colombia's Commerce minister.

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