The US has sealed a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia which aims to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

Both countries have passed the agreement to their legislatures for approval after it was signed by deputy US Trade Representative John Veroneau and Colombian Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism Jorge Humberto Botero in Washington.

The FTA promises to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to goods and services and expand trade between the two parties, said US Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

The agreement will offer new opportunities for US "businesses, manufacturers, farmers and ranchers," and provide Colombia with "permanent access to the US market, which will aid in sustaining real growth, creating more jobs and attracting new investment," said Veroneau.

The agreement has been endorsed by several US trade groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Manufacturers and the National Council of Textile Organizations.

Provisions of the agreement allow for:

• Duty- and quota-free access to both countries' textile markets, provided the products meet the agreement's rules of origin provisions.
 
• Expanded access for US providers to Colombia's services markets, such as in the financial sector.

• Greater protection in Colombia for intellectual property rights of US products and more protection for US patents and trademarks.

 • More public access to Colombian government information about customs requirements.

In 2005, the US was Colombia's largest trading partner with two-way goods trade between the two countries amounting to US$14.3bn.