Colombia’s Minister of Trade and Industry Luis Guillermo Plata said Friday that he thinks it is unlikely that U.S. Congress will pass its pending free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia in the remaining 100 days that President Alvaro Uribe is in power.
“Unless there is political will from the White House, I do not see a FTA within these 100 days that the [current Colombian] government has left,” said Plata.
The minister expressed his disappointment, saying “I had higher expectations … There is a level of confusion between the discourse that one has heard, and action.”
Plata’s remarks follow several meetings between the Colombian minister and U.S. officials in Washington this week. Among the officials Plata met with was U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who gave hope to supporters of the deal last week when he said that the passage of the FTA was vital to American interests.
Plata said certain U.S. officials had been “immovable” in regards to their positions on the FTA, such as head of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, who Plata met with on Thursday.
Yesterday, U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that it was doubtful that the House would vote this year the bill.
Hoyer said that he supports the bilateral agreements and wanted to see them pass eventually, but that there still need to be assurances that the deals abide by existing trade rules.
Plata also expressed his concern that the incoming Colombian presidential administration may not place enough priority on the FTA and could allow it to fail.
The U.S.-Colombia FTA was originally signed in 2006 by the George W. Bush administration, but has been put on hold since the Democrats gained a congressional majority in 2007. Democrats, and their labor allies, are generally more wary of free trade deals, arguing on the grounds of labor and human rights concerns about Colombia, and about the danger an FTA poses to American jobs.