The governments of Colombia and the United States are expected to announce a deal on a free trade pact between the two countries on Wednesday, news agency Associated Press reported Tuesday.
According to AP, three people close to the agreement confirmed that, after weeks of intense negotiations, Bogota and Washington were able to come to an agreement that will end a five-year stalemate to have the FTA proposed to U.S. congress.
Earlier that day, Reuters reported that according to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk the two countries had made “very strong progress” in addressing U.S. concerns over workers’ rights in Colombia.
“We have engaged with them every week over the last five weeks and we have made very strong progress,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told a House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee.
A free trade deal between Colombia and the U.S. would largely open up the Colombian markets for American goods without many of the duties that now exist. Officials have estimated the deal could increase U.S. exports to Colombia by $1 billion per year, creating jobs in the U.S. and business opportunities for American companies.
According to Colombian radio station Caracol, diplomats of that country are trying to arrange a meeting between President Juan Manuel Santos, currently on a Washington / New York trip, and his U.S. President Barack Obama.
“Yes there is a possibility that President Juan Manuel Santos will extend his stay for one day in the United States for some high-level appointments which could be held in New York or Washington, for the moment we cannot provide more detail,” government spokeswomen Adriana Vargas told the radio station.
The administration of former President George W. Bush negotiated the trade deal with Colombia, which the countries signed in November 2006.
But Democrats, who won control of Congress in elections the same month, objected strongly to the pact on the grounds that then-President Alvaro Uribe had not taken strong enough steps to protect workers’ rights and killings of union leaders by paramilitary and other right-wing groups.
Colombia’s ambassador to the United States Gabriel Silva last week was also upbeat on the talks.
He said the two sides were discussing a “common agenda,” rather than a list of U.S. demands.