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| 4/7/2011 12:00:00 AM

U.S. and Colombia Near Trade Pact

April 7--With the announcement on Wednesday that it has extracted labor rights concessions from Colombia to advance a trade deal, the Obama administration is now two-thirds of the way toward meeting Republican demands that three languishing trade agreements be sent to Congress for approval.

Senior administration officials hailed what they called an action plan in which Colombia promised to expand its protection program for labor union leaders, to enforce its labor laws more vigorously and to hire 480 more labor inspectors over four years. The White House announced that Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, would travel to Washington on Thursday to formally announce the agreement with President Obama.

Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, said he believed the plan would set the stage for a “very strong vote” in Congress on the trade deal. But neither he nor Michael Froman, the White House international economic affairs adviser, would say when that vote might happen, partly because Republicans want to see another trade pact with Panama completed before taking up any more votes on trade. That holdup also includes action on confirming a successor to Gary F. Locke as commerce secretary. Mr. Locke was nominated last month by the president to become ambassador to China.
 
This is the second time that the United States has reached a trade agreement with Colombia. The Bush administration did so in 2007, but Democrats in Congress, backed by labor unions, opposed that agreement, along with the Panama and South Korea pacts, arguing that American jobs could be lost and that the deals did not provide enough access for American companies.
 
Read more here.

Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.

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