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Canada Sees Ratifying Colombia Trade Deal

The Canadian government hopes to have Parliament ratify its free trade agreement with Colombia shortly after it resumes sitting on March 3, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Jan. 21.

The two countries negotiated the trade deal last spring, but it did not pass through Canada’s Parliament before the Conservative government suspended it last month until March.

The deal, however, still needs the support of opposition parties because the Conservatives have only a minority in the House of Commons. Opposi t ion parties have criticized Colombia on human rights grounds and have been reluctant to support the deal.

“(I) ask the opposition in our House of Commons to help pass the FTA as soon as Parliament resumes,” Ritz said in a conference call with reporters from Guatemala City, where he was finishing a trade mission to Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and the United States.

The government hopes to ratify the deal with Colombia, which imported $123 million ($117 million) in Canadian wheat, durum and barley in 2008, before the United States can finalize its own free trade agreement with the South American country.

Ritz said that during his trade mission he urged the Mexican government to lift restrictions on beef from Canadian cattle over 30 months of age but that Mexico continues to have health concerns.

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