The U.S. announced Wednesday that it plans to give Colombia a list of suggestions to help the Andean nation resolve the labor concerns that are blocking the approval of a bilateral free trade agreement.
“We are hopeful we can come to some resolution [on the proposal] with members of [U.S.] Congress over the next several months, if not weeks … so that we can then go back to Colombia with a finite list of what we’d like to see get done,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.
Kirk said that passing the agreement with Colombia, along with Panama and South Korea trade deals, is a priority of U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration.
U.S. Republican Senator Charles Grassley criticized the Obama administration for its “apparent lack of urgency” in resolving the issues that are preventing the three pacts from being passed.
“This delay in implementation hurts U.S. credibility around the world, not just economically but geopolitically as well,” Grassley said.
Kirk said the U.S. plans to give Colombia a list of legislative proposals and judicial reforms that it would like the South American country to execute, in order to guarantee the rights of workers and trade unionists.
“I think in fairness to Colombia we ought to give them a workable list of legislative and other issues that we can manage through, rather than just dealing with the raw emotion of those who say we would never do the agreement,” Kirk said.
Kirk stressed that the U.S. has maintained “a constant dialogue” with Colombia and visited the Andean nation in the last three months.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Monday met in Uruguay with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who confirmed Washington’s plans to push the FTA.
The free trade pact signed by Uribe and former U.S. President George W. Bush has been stalled in U.S. Congress due to concerns about ongoing violence against labor rights workers in Colombia.