From the media briefing Friday, Jan. 28, after a meeting of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Angelino Garzon of Colombia:
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, two points. The first one is: (inaudible) Vice President Garzon asked two days ago the Obama Administration to send this year to Congress the Free Trade Agreement. With all due respect, is the – you – Obama Administration going to do that, yes or no?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: This year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes
The follow-up adds various qualifiers, but there’s no misconstruing the “yes.”
Brian Wingfield at Forbes this morning provides a good round-up of positive developments, “Colombia Trade Agreement Gaining Momentum In Washington,” pegged to the return to Washington of Colombia Ambassador Gabriel Silva, who represented Colombia in the early 1990s.
According to Silva, the U.S. is seeing what opportunity it has in Colombia slip away. Documents provided by the Colombian Embassy show that the U.S.’ share of agricultural imports to Colombia has dropped from 46% in 2008 to 22% today, due in part to the integration of Latin American markets. Last May Colombian officials concluded negotiations on a free trade agreement with the European Union, and in August they signed a trade deal with Canada that is expected to become effective later this year. By the end of the decade, China could replace the U.S. as Colombia’s largest trading partner.
“We are asking the U.S. to turn things around,” says Silva.
Among the evidence for momentum, Wingfield cites the comments by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) after President Obama’s State of the Union address, which were: “Our free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama were signed more than three and a half years ago, so it’s extremely disappointing the president did not lay out a timeline for submitting them to Congress.”
- The Hill (blog), “Baucus rips Obama for not providing trade agreement timeline
- AFP, “Obama ally pushes Colombia, Panama trade deals“
- AP, “GOP calls for quick action on free trade pacts“
- Reuters, “U.S. committed to passing Colombia trade pact: Biden“
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