Negotiators from the United States and Colombia have reached a deal on labour and judicial reforms in Colombia in a move that paves the way for the long-pending free trade agreement between the two countries to move forward for Congressional approval.
 
The pact also opens the door for Congressional action on the pending agreements with Panama and South Korea. 

The announcement is a "very positive step towards getting US trade policy back on track for exponential growth," according to Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), which represents apparel and footwear firms and their suppliers.

The US - Colombia Free Trade Agreement has languished in uncertainty since it was concluded back in 2007. Outstanding issues relating to labour law and violence against workers mean it has been unable to move forward until now. 

President Obama, however, called for these issues to be resolved this year as part of his goal of boosting the US economy by doubling the country's exports by 2014 and creating new jobs.

"Upon its implementation, this trade agreement provides US companies unfettered access to nearly 45m new consumers," Burke continues. 

"In addition, the US textile, apparel, and footwear industries, along with our workers and consumers, stand to benefit from improved and permanent two-way trade flows."

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) agrees that lowering trade barriers is vital to the American retail sector.

"Domestic economic growth and job creation here at home are dependent upon open access to new markets and new sources in the global economy," notes RILA president Sandy Kennedy. "Tearing down trade barriers will create thousands of new jobs as American businesses compete to buy and sell goods and services to customers around the world."