U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his desire to reignite the stalled free trade agreement with Colombia, and stay true to his State of the Union speech vow to double U.S. exports in five years.
During a speech which announced the relaunch of the President’s Export Council, a group to discuss export-promotion strategy, Obama said that he wanted to “deepen and broaden” relations with Panama and Colombia.
“We’re working to resolve outstanding issues with the free trade agreements with those key partners [Panama and Colombia], and we’re focused on submitting them as soon as possible for congressional consideration,” Obama said.
The free trade agreements have been an issue for many U.S. Democrats, who think that American workers would suffer from lowered trade barriers.
The president said that the U.S. was for a long time trapped in a false political debate, where “business was on one side, and labor was on the other.” Now, however, Obama thinks there is an opportunity to break down partisan divides and work together.
“We live in a interconnected world. There are global challenges and global opportunities. This nation has never shied away from the prospect of competition,” Obama said.
Colombian president Alvaro Uribe welcomed the encouraging words from the U.S. president.
“We are grateful to President Obama and express our desire [for the FTA] to be ratified as soon as possible,” Uribe said.
Republicans from the House of Representatives are firmly behind the agreements being signed and said in a statement: “We hope that the President will follow through on his commitment to finish the South Korea agreement and that he will also challenge Democrats in Congress to begin work on Colombia and Panama.”