Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos finds U.S. demands on tougher labor protections in his country not only reasonable but actively desirable, he told U.S. television network Bloomberg Thursday.
“We have no problem signing or committing ourselves to defending the workers’ rights, because we believe in that,” Santos said in an interview with the television network.
According to the news network, the Colombian head of state was presented with a list of actions requested by the administration of Barack Obama before the White House is willing to send a Colombia-USA free trade accord to Congress.
Santos, when presented with the submitted requests, said that he has no problem committing the government to defending worker’s rights, and insisted that the presented list “is exactly what we want also.”
Obama wants Colombia to limit the use of cooperatives that allow Colombian companies to circumvent union organizing and step up prosecutions of individuals who violently intimidate labor organizers.
According to inside sources interviewed by U.S. news network Bloomberg, Washington and Bogota are close to finalizing the trade pact, which would boost American shipments from $1.1 billion to $12 billion and also lock in unilateral trade privileges that currently have to be renewed by Congress, providing far greater certainty to domestic and international investors.
The trade deal is of great interest to the U.S., since although current Colombian exports to the U.S. are dwarfing China, the gap is narrowing. Last year sales to China doubled while those in the U.S. rose by only 31 percent.
The initial agreement was first signed in 2006 by President Bush, but officials have struggled to finalize the terms ever since.