Colombian President Juan Maunel Santos on Monday thanked his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama after the latter sent a long-stalled free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries to Congress for approval.
“I welcome this step very much because fundamentally it means more economic growth and more jobs,” Santos said at a press conference in the Colombian capital Bogota.
According to Santos, Obama “has kept his word. This was what he promised to do.”
The Colombian President called on Democrats and Republicans “to ratify the free trade agreement quickly and through this significantly strengthen the relations between the two countries significantly.”
Colombia and the U.S. signed the FTA in 2006. However, despite efforts from then-President George W. Bush to push it through before the end of his term, Bush’s Democratic opponents blocked the bill citing concerns over Colombia’s human rights record.
Since assuming power in 2008, President Obama has said he will push for approval of the CPTA as long as Colombia offers concrete proof of improvements in its human rights and labor record.
Earlier this year, the U.S and Colombia agreed a Labor Action Plan to address concerns over assassinations, violence and intimidation against unionists and abuse of workers.
While it has been broadly welcomed, the plan has come under criticism from unions and human rights groups for failing to alter the situation on the ground.
The CPTA has also been delayed by partisan political squabbling in the U.S, most recently over the inclusion of a retraining program for workers displaced by trade.