In Bogota Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered strong words of praise for Colombia’s successful fight against narcotraffickers and leftist guerilla warfare, praising the country “becoming a lynchpin of security and prosperity in South America.”
Secretary Gates made the remarks in a news conference with Defense Minister Gabriel Silva Luján. He also met with Colombia President Alvaro Uribe.
The secretary said his talks here also extended to the importance of a getting a free trade agreement ratified, noting that he talked with National Security Advisor James L. Jones Jr. before his trip here about renewing that effort. Gates referenced an op-ed piece he co-wrote with former Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos in July 2008 pressing for movement on the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and said his views haven’t changed.
“It’s a good deal for Colombia, and it’s a good deal for the United States,” he said.
In his op-ed, the secretary lauded tremendous gains Colombia had made against its internal threats and called economic progress essential for these gains to stick.
“Colombia’s hard-won freedom from violence can be sustained only through economic prosperity,” he wrote.
Gates said a trade promotion agreement would establish a commitment to open markets that would increase this essential growth and investment in Colombia.
“To achieve lasting peace and stability, Colombia must have more foreign investment and free trade,” Gates wrote.
Enactment of the U.S. Colombia Free Trade Agreement, as well as negotiated trade deals with Panama and Korea, is also critical for meeting the President’s goal of doubling exports over the next five years.
Also, Associated Press, “Gates Makes Pitch For US-Colombia Trade Pact“
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