White House spokesmen on Thursday reiterated statements U.S. President Barack Obama made Tuesday in his State of the Union address; the administration will work towards the approval of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia, but has no timetable.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington that “we are, as we talked about in the briefing that we did around the State of the Union, hopeful that first and foremost, we can get the Korea free trade agreement through Congress as soon as possible, and that the USTR and others can continue work on Panama and Colombia.”
Mike Hammer, spokesman of the National Security Council, said “I don’t have a precise date on when we’ll submit the agreement to Congress, but it is certainly a top priority for the administration. We will be working with our colleagues in Congress to try to work as expeditiously as possible to get it done.”
Following Obama’s State of the Union, a Colombian business leader said the American president’s weak support for the FTA had left a “bad taste.”
“It leaves me with a bad taste because it continues to put South Korea at the top of its list of priorities in which they are first, Panama second, and Colombia third,” Luis Carlos Villegas told the radio station.
According to the Colombian government, former U.S. President Bill Clinton sees Obama’s reference to the FTA as a “very positive signal.”
Clinton met briefly with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Davos Thursday. “We discussed the FTA. We analyzed the reference made by President Obama in his annual speech, the State of the Union. He said this was a very positive signal,” Santos said.
The U.S.-Colombia FTA was signed by former Presidents George W. Bush and Alvaro Uribe in 2006, but was never ratified by U.S. Congress. Despite ongoing Colombian lobbying to have the pact approved, the Obama administration has not yet put the deal up for a congressional vote.