Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama set deadlines to have a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries ratified by U.S. congress.
According to Colombian magazine Semana, U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed, upon completion of the meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, that the two made concrete plans to strengthen labor rights in Colombia and thus to end longtime deliberation over the FTA.
In response to the decision, Santos stated, “Today (Thursday) the green light was given (to the pocess so that the FTA will be presented before Congress), which is incredibly important for Colombia and the development of Colombia,” reported newspaper El Colombiano.
The Colombian president expressed satisfaction with the time frames agreed upon, stating that, by April 22, “We are going to comply with a series of requisites regarding workers and the strengthening of our justice system,” and that “After this date, what we have agreed is that the process of formally presenting the agreement to the Congress (of the U.S.) will formally begin.”
For his part, Obama stated that, “It pleases me to announce today that we have developed a plan of action in regards to labor rights,” adding that, “I think this will serve as a base for advancing the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement.”
Santos emphasized the common values of the U.S. and Colombia, stating that, “This step brings us even closer to being able to defend those values. The FTA for Colombia means more employment, more commerce, more investment and more prosperity… North American employment and commerce will also come away strengthened.”
The meeting held Thursday afternoon aimed to resolve key points of tension regarding the FTA in order to achieve ratification of the agreement, which has been pending since 2006.
Earlier in the day, Santos expressed hope that a firm date for the deal would be set during the afternoon’s discussion, which placed emphasis on the themes of preventing violence against trade union leaders and strenthening institutions in charge of investigating crimes against these leaders.
Other deadlines set for the Colombian government include reforming the Criminal Code which protects worker’s rights by mid-June.