BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
CARTAGENA -- The US Congress will approve the long-delayed free trade agreement with Colombia this year, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos told a meeting here today.
"I am confident it will be approved this year," he told participants at the Business Future of the Americas organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Colombia and the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA). His remarks were delivered through a taped video.
Francicso Sanchez, the undersecretary for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, agreed. "We will see the passage of the Colombia free trade agreement before the end of the year," he told the participants. "We´re on track. There´s bipartisan support."
The US-Colombia FTA was negotiated five years ago and formally signed in November 2006, but its approval has been delayed due to opposition from US unions and key Democratic lawmakers.
After a two-year impasse, the Obama Administration in April reached a deal, “Action Plan Related to Labor Rights,” with Colombia that will pave the way for congressional approval of the five-year old US-Colombia free trade agreement.
However, in May key Obama officials warned that they would not support the Colombia FTA unless Republicans vote in favor of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which many Republicans oppose.
The move was widely criticized by supporters of the Colombia FTA as yet another obstacle just as it finally looked like the agreement would be approved.
However, Sanchez told the conference here that the debate is largely over and it is now just a question of time before the FTA will be approved.
Meanwhile, the Colombia-Canada free trade agreement is scheduled to be implemented in the second half of the year, Colombian Commerce Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados told the Business Future of the Americas.
Santos emphasized that the Colombia FTA was just as beneficial to the United States as Colombia. Sanchez echoed those remarks. "It is absolutely in our interest to do this," he said.
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