The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement
Scott Brison, Member of Parliament House of Commons, Canada Class of 2005
My friendship with Luis was born well before the agreement was signed. Our first encounter goes back to 2005, followed by further YGL meetings at various World Economic Forum events. Our friendship deepened over a two-year period, when I was shadow minister of international trade in Canada and Luis was minister of trade for Colombia.
The FTA negotiations started in 2002 under Jean Chrétien and Alvaro Uribe. However, as time went on, it appeared doomed in the Canadian Parliament. We started discussions in early 2009 to try to turn things around. I proposed an amendment in the form of a human rights treaty that would require annual reporting on the impact that the FTA would have on human rights in both countries. We then had a very important meeting in Davos where the idea was presented to President Uribe. He was totally open to it. He basically turned to Luis and said: “Go ahead and get this done.”
The deal remained very unpopular in Canada. The unions were against it, the Socialists were against it, there was even a coalition against the human rights treaty. It would have been easy to take the politically expedient route and walk away. It took a great leap of faith for Luis and I to get this agreement ratified. Neither of us would have been able to do it without having total trust in each other – trust born out of our common involvement in the YGL community.
My friendship with Luis helped open my eyes to Colombia – to take a risk and do what I thought was right. I believe we have established a relationship between Canada and Colombia that goes beyond dollars and cents – a true partnership.
There has never been a human rights treaty between two countries tied to a free trade agreement. As we move on, I suspect human rights treaties will become a regular part of such agreements – and all this started with the friendship and trust between two people.
The connections that you build through the YGL community can lead to remarkable innovation and progress. It is just a matter of finding the right time and the right opportunity – you never know when you might meet somebody who is doing something interesting in another country.
“The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was a landmark agreement: the first of its kind which Colombia signed with a country in the northern hemisphere. Since its implementation in 2011 it has led to a significant increase in the trade of goods and services and investment between the two countries. This would not have been possible if it weren’t for the YGL community where by chance two key actors met, built a friendship and together managed to make of this a big success story.”
Luis Guillermo Plata
Chief Executive Officer
The Cornerstone Group, Colombia
Class of 2006