A free trade agreement has been signed by both countries but has not been approved by the U.S. Congress.
“Let’s start a dialogue to enrich our agenda with the United States. We would like to move from being recipients of aid to being strategic partners. We are looking for a relationship, as President Barack Obama put it himself, that is more face-to-face, where we can help one another” Santos said at a presentation in northern Bogota about a book on the Obama administration.
Vice President Angelino Garzon will travel to Washington next month to lobby in support of the deal. He will meet with Congress members and update them on the country’s progress on defending human rights and protecting unions, which are one of Democratic politicians’ biggest concerns about the trade agreement.
Santos said that one of the new issues he would like to pursue is environmental protection, “We cannot forget that Colombia has the greatest biodiversity in the world per square kilometer, and that we need to focus on conservation of water, biofuels, and formulating a solution to climate change.”
Protecting the rights of migrants is also of interest to Colombia, with 5 million people, more than 10% of the population, living outside the country, many of them in the United States.
Santos said he would like to build an agenda based on cooperation in education, technology, and innovation.
“The U.S. has some some of the best universities in the world, and we hope to strengthen our research capabilities. We must work together to seek solutions to regional problems, such as the disaster in Haiti.”
Santos did not dismiss the issues which have come to define the U.S.-Colombian relationship in the past, “We have a great experience in combating drugs, and we can share what we have learned with other countries suffering from the same problem. We know that, in the same way that crime does not recognize borders, cooperation to combat it must also supersede them.”