The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

FACT SHEET: The United States and Colombia – Strategic Partners

Today President Barack Obama hosted Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the White House.  Their visit underscored the close ties between the United States and Colombia, founded upon shared democratic values, deepening economic ties, and a long history of shared security goals.  The visit highlighted our cooperation in the following areas:

Economic and Social Opportunities

  • Free Trade Agreement:  The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement continues to benefit both nations.  U.S. exports to Colombia increased by nearly 19 percent in the first year, while Colombia diversified its export base with more than 1,300 companies exporting goods to the United States for the first time.  Both countries’ businesses and economies are benefitting from eliminated or lowered tariffs and increased trade opportunities, and both are committed to ensuring all aspects of the agreement are fully observed in order to maximize opportunities for growth.  

  • Labor Action Plan: The United States and Colombia continue to work on implementation of the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights, which was announced in April 2011 before the trade agreement entered into force to address labor concerns.  The United States and Colombia decided to hold formal meetings through at least 2014 on Action Plan commitments, and recognize advances under the Action Plan and areas where challenges remain.  

  • Strengthening Colombia’s Energy Market:  In early 2014, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency intends to host a commercial workshop in Bogotá, Colombia, aimed at creating state-of-the-art electricity transmission and distribution projects in Colombia, as well as a visit to cities in the United States, to help upgrade Colombia’s wholesale electricity market into the most efficient and advanced in Latin America.  Through the Department of State’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program (UGTEP), Colombian and U.S. officials are working to help create the basis for environmentally sustainable unconventional gas development in Colombia.  On December 2, the Department of Energy also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector and to promote regional leadership on energy and climate change. 

  • Expanding Opportunity for Vulnerable Populations, including Afro-Colombians:  In June 2013, the United States and Colombia held a session of the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality (CAPREE), hosting government and civil society representatives from both nations to collaborate on long-standing challenges faced by indigenous and afro-descendent communities in Colombia and the United States.  The resulting work plan, the first under CAPREE, aims to expand educational, cultural, and economic opportunities for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.  One CAPREE program hopes to engage 1,415 Afro-Colombian youth leaders, at-risk youth, coaches, and teachers to promote sports for social change and to prevent youth violence. 

Peace, Security, and Rule of Law

The United States reaffirmed its longstanding defense and security partnership with Colombia, and strongly supports Colombia’s unwavering commitment to seeking a durable peace, including through the peace talks now underway, in order to permit Colombians the greater peace, security, and prosperity they deserve.

  • Land restitution:  The United States continues its collaboration with Colombia to assist its people, particularly in the areas of rural development and land restitution, key concerns at the heart of the Colombia’s ongoing conflict.  USAID announced $68 million in support of Colombian efforts to: 1) restore land to victims of conflict; 2) issue land titles; and 3) generate opportunities for viable rural livelihoods for small farmers.  In addition, USAID will help expand the coverage of legal protection of land rights, especially those of small farmers, by strengthening the Colombian government’s land titling efforts.  

  • Building Rule of Law and Assisting Victims:   The United States and Colombia continue to partner on strengthening the rule of law and protection of human rights in Colombia, including in the criminal justice system.  Over the past five years, the United States has provided nearly $100 million dollars of rule of law assistance to the Colombian Attorney General’s Office focused on human rights, victim assistance programs, and the investigation and prosecution of criminal organizations.  

  • Humanitarian Demining:  In cooperation with the Organization of American States, the United States provided more than $4 million in FY 2013 to support demining in Colombia, to both clear mines that threaten communities and to help victims.  With this support, non-governmental organization HALO cleared its first mine in September 2013. 

  • Secure Movement of Goods and People:  The United States and Colombia share an interest in preventing transnational illicit networks from conducting, planning, and supporting operations aimed at harming our populations, including through the exploitation of financial systems, international trade, and transportation systems.  In August 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) broadened security cooperation with the Colombian Ministry of Finance and Public Credit through the Joint Statement to Establish a Cargo Targeting Center and the Joint Statement on Global Supply Chain Security.  The U.S. Trade and Development Agency is also facilitating, via a technical assistance grant, the Colombian National Tax and Customs Directorate’s acquisition and implementation of non-intrusive inspection systems.   

Regional and Global Partnership and Integration

  • Global Economic Integration:   In 2013, the United States supported the invitation to Colombia to begin accession proceedings with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  Colombia’s future OECD membership will strengthen its economic growth, creating opportunities for Colombian and American businesses and workers.  To further expand economic opportunity, Colombia joined Mexico, Peru, and Chile as part of the Pacific Alliance, a regional organization intended to harmonize trade policies and expand commerce.  The United States was welcomed as an observer on July 19, and Secretary of State Kerry discussed next steps with his Pacific Alliance counterparts in New York in September.  

  • Partners in Regional Security Cooperation:  Colombia has evolved into a regional exporter of security expertise, sharing its knowledge to help develop the capacity of other countries to improve citizen security and confront the effects of transnational organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking.  Through the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation, the United States and Colombia have formalized support to selected third countries.  In 2013, this security assistance included 39 capacity-building activities in four Central American countries focused on areas such as asset forfeiture, investigations, polygraphs, and interdiction.  The United States and Colombia announced the Action Plan for 2014, which aims to increase assistance through 152 capacity-building activities in six countries in Central America and the Caribbean.  

  • Expanding Energy Access and Security:   Colombia and the United States continue to engage bilaterally and regionally on Connect 2022, a hemispheric initiative the two countries launched in Cartagena in 2012 to achieve universal access to electricity through enhanced electrical interconnections, power sector investment, renewable energy development, and cooperation.  

Environment, Science, and Innovation

  • Conserving the Environment and Livelihoods: Both the United States and Colombia emphasize and support conservation efforts that preserve valuable ecosystems.  In 2013, USAID made a new $10 million commitment to conserve biodiversity and reduce deforestation in the Colombian Amazon.  Under the Initiative for Conservation of the Andean Amazon (ICAA), the United States is partnering with Colombia to slow the expansion of the agricultural frontier, while creating corridors for critical biodiversity.  In addition, with support from USAID, the U.S. National Park Service and Colombia’s Parques Nacionales aim to expand their long history of collaboration, to include cooperation on climate change adaptation, concessions development and management, environmental education and interpretation, and the development of “Sister Parks.”  Renewable energy is also expected to be deployed in several Colombian parks by the USAID Clean Energy Program. 

  • Protecting Marine Species and Ocean Ecosystems:  The United States and Colombia share similar responsibilities and challenges in conserving and sustainably managing marine species and ocean ecosystems in Pacific and Caribbean coasts and waters.  The United States recognizes Colombia's leadership in marine conservation, most recently demonstrated by efforts to protect marine species at risk due to international trade under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collaborates closely with Colombia's Ministry of Environment, National Authority of Aquaculture and Fisheries, and local non-governmental organizations to promote healthy and productive marine environments.  

  • Cleaner, Responsible Mining:  Colombia is working to address the destructive effects on the environment of illegal mining operations.  To support Colombia’s efforts, in 2013 USAID launched a three-year $6.5 million program to formalize artisanal gold mining operations, improve working conditions, and reduce mercury and other contamination, and plans to expand work in the mining sector by at least $10 million in 2014.  In 2013, the Department of Labor announced a separate four-year, $9 million project in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor to combat child labor and promote a safe work environment in the mining sector.  In addition, the Department of the Interior is working with Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy to design a tool that will measure and monitor mining activities in Colombia and the broader Andean Amazon.   

  • Smart Technology:  Colombia is undertaking an ambitious infrastructure development and modernization effort.   Colombia will assess options for intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies as a means of reducing congestion and improving the effectiveness of its control and management of highway and other transport systems through a U.S. Trade and Development Agency grant with the Ministry of Transport.   

Education

  • 100,000 Strong: In March 2011, President Obama launched “100,000 Strong in the Americas,” an initiative to increase international study in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Colombia is a priority country for the initiative, and the United States is providing $1 million in economic support funds and has leveraged $2.6 million in private sector funds to build the capacity of universities  to boost exchanges.  More than 6,500 university students from Colombia are currently studying in the United States. 

  • Sports Diplomacy and Leadership: The United States and Colombia are deeply committed to furthering educational opportunities for at-risk youth, through sports exchange programs such as in baseball, track and field, and basketball.  With support from the U.S. Embassy, Mónica González - a former professional soccer player and ESPN analyst - established soccer academies in Santa Marta, Quibdó, Medellín, and Bogotá to teach leadership and sporting skills to girls from vulnerable areas. 

  • Bilingual Colombia:   Colombia is working to strengthen its international competitiveness through stronger bilingual education.  The Department of State is partnering with Colombia’s Ministry of Education to implement a two-year program to train up to 500 public school instructors on English instruction.  In September, in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, DIRECTV launched a distance learning education program, “Inglés en las Aulas” (English in the classrooms). 

  • MLK Fellows program:  The MLK Fellows Program, established in 2005, provides English language and leadership training to outstanding Afro-Colombian university students.  The U.S. Embassy has supported 230 MLK fellows to date, with another 120 talented Afro-Colombian university students starting in 2014. 

  • Fulbright Scholars:  The United States has helped fund scholarships for more than 750 Colombian scholars during the last ten years, including more than 100 in 2013.

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