U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday he was hopeful President Barack Obama
would submit the Colombian free trade agreement to Congress this year,
despite Obama’s opposition to the deal during his campaign.
Hoyer, a supporter of a trade deal with Colombia, said he was
discussing the matter with the Obama administration but he didn’t think
they would do anything on the matter until after U.S. Trade
Representative-designee Ron Kirk is confirmed by the Senate.
“We are having discussions with the administration as to when they
might want to do that, if they might want to do it,” Hoyer told
reporters. “I don’t want to predict what they are going to do.
“I’m hopeful that it will be” submitted, Hoyer said. “As you know, I’m for it.”
The administration of former President George W. Bush negotiated the
agreement but was unable to get Congress to pass it before it left
Obama opposed the deal during his campaign for the presidency. He
has said Colombia needs to do more to stop killings of union leaders
and bring murderers to justice.
But his administration has said they want to work with Congress to
establish benchmarks for progress on both the Colombia and South Korea
free trade deals that Bush’s team negotiated.
U.S. trade officials also have said the White House would likely
submit a less controversial free trade agreement with Panama to
Congress before proceeding to either the Colombia or the South Korea
Hoyer said that Rep. Sander Levin, the chairman of the House Ways
and Means subcommittee on trade, had some ideas “as to what further
steps need to be taken. Clearly those ideas are going to be very
important to me.”
Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said last week Colombia must amend its
labor laws to comply with International Labor Organization standards
and take other steps to ensure murderers of trade unionists there are
brought to justice. (Reuters)