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Washington Outlook Archive

Obama Sees Approval Of Colombia Free Trade Pact

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Following meetings with Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, President Barack Obama and his top trade advisors express confidence that the stymied free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia will be approved, but it will take some time.

The FTA with Colombia was negotiated by the Bush administration in 2006, but Congress has refused to approve it until Colombia demonstrates it is addressing what the US lawmakers say are major labor rights abuses. The pact enjoys the support of US textile and apparel manufacturers as it has a yarn-forward rule of origin and does not include tariff preference levels or other loopholes.

While saying he was confident a satisfactory agreement can be reached, Obama said there is no definite timetable, as it will have to win the endorsement of Congress, and he pointed out there are more pressing issues on the table at this time.

He did, however, instruct US Trade Representative Ron Kirk to begin discussions aimed at resolving problems, and Kirk met with Uribe immediately after his meeting with Obama. Following the meeting, Kirk said they had a good discussion and are working on a process to address ways to go forward with the pact.

Administration trade officials have said the president is working on an overall trade policy statement that would cover pending and future FTAs as well as other issues.

July 7, 2009