U.S. President Barack Obama
is eager to discuss a long-delayed free trade agreement with Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe when the two leaders meet on June 29, the White
House said on Friday.
Colombia is a close U.S. ally and Obama looks forward to discussing
a number of issues with Uribe, including how to enhance regional
security and development, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a
“The president also looks forward to discussing with President Uribe
our economic engagement, including the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade
Agreement,” Gibbs said.
Colombia, the world’s third-largest coffee producer, signed the free trade agreement with the United States in November 2006.
But to Uribe’s frustration, former President George W. Bush was
unable to persuade the Democratic-controlled Congress to approve the
pact because of concerns many U.S. lawmakers had about anti-labor
violence in Colombia.
Obama, who also opposed the trade deal during last year’s
presidential election, asked U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in
April to work with Congress and Colombia to establish “benchmarks” for
Bogota to meet in reducing killings of trade unionists and increasing
Obama and Uribe will discuss how to consolidate recent “security
gains in Colombia through effective governance, as well as other ways
to further strengthen the bilateral relationship,” Gibbs said.
Colombia, supported by billions of dollars in U.S. aid, has made
substantial gains in recent years over a four-decade-old rebel