U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Council of the Americas’ 40th annual Washington Conference, said that U.S. President Barack Obama remains committed to the free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia, but that “difficult challenges” are preventing its rapid approval.
“We are, as President Obama said in the State of the Union, committed to our free-trade agreements with both countries but we’re also facing very difficult challenges,” she said. “But I am absolutely here to reiterate that commitment.”
Some U.S. congressmen from Obama’s own Democratic party have asked for more protections in the agreement to prevent the murder of trade unionists in Colombia.
Clinton said that she and Obama “feel strongly” about the agreement, but that “political winds” are making the outcome of the agreement’s approval difficult to predict.
The U.S. secretary of state also asked the private sector to help explain “the importance of trade and why it is good for the United States and American workers.”
Clinton mentioned several other areas of concern in the Americas region, including many countries’ dependence on imported oil to the detriment of their economies, the lack of effective strategies to combat drug trafficking, and how widespread economic inequality encourages people to pursue illicit businesses such as arms traffic.
The Council of the Americas’ Washington Conference is taking place at the U.S. State Department and is attended by heads of state, U.S.cabinet members, government ministers from the region, and congressional leaders.