Speaking at the Council for Foreign Relations, Uribe called on the United States to provide amnesty to immigrants working honestly in the country and to improve living standards through free trade in countries that are a source of migrant workers.
“The free trade agreement is one of the ways we need for investors to come to our country, to provide our people with opportunity and the more people find our opportunities in our country, the less they will want to flee the country,” Uribe said.
Earlier in the day, Uribe discussed the free trade agreement with Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who along with Sen. John McCain supports the Colombian free trade agreement that is currently before Congress. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama opposes the agreement.
Uribe said the agreement was very important to his country as a means of attracting investment, although he said he did not believe it would do much to increase exports to the U.S.
“We need approval of the free trade agreement with the U.S.,” Uribe said while conceding that “much remains to be done to make the country more competitive.”
Uribe also said he believed his country was better prepared to weather the current financial crisis roiling international markets than it was six years ago when he took office.
“There is good news: A high investment rate this year in the midst of the difficulties,” Uribe said, adding that he expects around $11 billion in direct foreign investment this year compared with only $700 million when he took office in 2002.
He said he expected the country would end the year with an inflation rate of between 7 and 7.5 percent after seeing food prices rise by as much as 14 percent this year.