U.S. hopes to make progress on Colombia trade pact

Aides to U.S. President Barack Obama, who warned against protectionism while attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, said he directed U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to hammer out issues standing in the way of the pact.

“The president has asked our trade representative, Ambassador Kirk, to work with the Colombians to work through … the president’s remaining concerns about violence against labor leaders in Colombia,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a briefing.

U.S. Democrats, who control Congress and have strong support from the labor movement, have expressed concerns over the murders of union leaders in Colombia and backlogs in investigating the crimes.

Washington’s failure to approve the free trade deal, however, is seen in Latin America as a sign of its indifference to a staunch U.S. ally in the region.

Obama and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe were photographed sitting next to one other at one point during the regional summit. Uribe said he told the U.S. leader his government had made progress to stop the killings and get more convictions,political article.

“We want to reach the point where there are no killings of workers in Colombia,” Uribe, a conservative and ally of former President George W. Bush, told reporters. “I said, Mr. President we are fighting against impunity.”

Gibbs said Kirk had also met with Uribe and the Colombian finance minister.

“We hope that that dialogue continues and that we can make progress about the remaining concerns that we have.”


Uribe said he would travel to Washington shortly and Obama had proposed a visit to Colombia during his next trip to Latin America to discuss bilateral issues, including the free trade agreement.

A U.S. official had said earlier on Saturday that Obama was eager to meet privately with Uribe. He said Uribe brought up the issue of trade during a meeting between Obama and leaders from South American countries on Saturday morning.

Gibbs said the United States had concerns about the treatment of labor with regard to a free trade agreement with Panama but expressed hope that progress could be made on that pact, too.

Colombia has used billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to crack down on leftist rebels and drug traffickers, and violence linked to its four-decade civil war has fallen sharply. But critics say Uribe has not done enough to curb extra-judicial killings and crush paramilitary death squads.

White House economic adviser Larry Summers said Obama had stressed the need to avoid protectionist trade policies as the world battles a crippling recession.

“While global GDP this year will probably decline by about 1 percent, global trade may decline by 10 percent or more,” Summers told black porn the briefing.

“The President was very clear that the United States would not move to protectionism

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