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January 2011

January 28, 2011
Remarks of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón After Their Meeting

DOS/ SECRETARY CLINTON:  Good morning.  I am very pleased to be here with Vice President Garzon of Colombia on his first visit to Washington as vice president.  Before discussing the important matters that were part of our meeting, I would like to say something about the unfolding events in Egypt.

We continue to monitor the situation very closely.  We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protestors, and we call on the Egyptian Government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces.  At the same time, protestors should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully.

As we have repeatedly said, we support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, including the right to freedom of expression, of association and of assembly.  We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications.  These protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society, and the Egyptian Government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.

As President Obama said yesterday, reform is absolutely critical to the well being of Egypt.  Egypt has long been an important partner of the United States on a range of regional issues.  As a partner, we strongly believe that the Egyptian Government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political, and social reforms.  We continue to raise with the Egyptian Government, as we do with other governments in the region, the imperative for reform and greater openness and participation to provide a better future for all.  We want to partner with the Egyptian people and their government to realize their aspirations to live in a democratic society that respects basic human rights.

When I was recently in the region, I met with a wide range of civil society groups and I heard from them about ideas they have that would improve their countries.  The people of the Middle East, like people everywhere, are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives.  As I said in Doha, leaders need to respond to these aspirations and to help build that better future for all.  They need to view civil society as their partner, not as a threat.

Now there is a great deal of concern also in our government, Mr. Vice President, about the mining disaster that killed 21 miners in Colombia.  And we will have our translator translate these remarks about Colombia as we go along.

I know that President Santos cut short his stay at the World Economic Forum to join the families of these victims.  And I would like the people of Colombia to know they are in the thoughts and prayers of all Americans not just for the mining tragedy, but for the terrible flooding that in the past two months has claimed more than 300 lives, affected more than 2 million people and incurred billions of dollars in reconstruction and clean-up costs.

The Vice President and I had a very productive, wide-ranging discussion on many important issues, and we reaffirmed the resilient, enduring partnership and friendship between our peoples.  We share common values and a respect for democratic governance, the rule of law, and self-determination.  And the United States has stood with Colombia for more than a decade as they take on security challenges.  We´ve made considerable progress together, but we have more work to do on security and other issues.  That is why we are hosting the second round of the U.S.-Colombia High Level Partnership Dialogue in March, where we will cover so many of these issues.  We are committed to a very broad discussion of issues, from sustainable energy to human rights.  And as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, we are committed to a successful conclusion and ratification of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement.  And I look forward to working with the vice president and members of the Colombian Government to bring that result about.

I also commended the vice president and the Santos administration for the progress that is being made on resolving long-term disputes having to do with displaced people in the country and reaching out to civil society to add their voices to a national conversation about human rights and labor rights.  And I want to thank Colombia for their assistance to other countries in the fight against drug traffickers and criminal organizations, their assistance to the people of Haiti and of Afghanistan and in so many ways the leadership that Colombia is showing in helping to solve difficult issues.

We look forward to continuing and close cooperation, Mr. Vice President.

VICE PRESIDENT GARZON:  (Via interpreter)  Thank you so much Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States.  I want to say on behalf of the Government of Colombia and very especially on behalf of President Santos, I would like to express our thanks to you, Mrs. Clinton, and to President Obama for the solidarity of your government and your people to the people of Colombia on the occasion of the recent floods and in particular the recent mining tragedy, which has cost 21 lives, has left several injured in the area of Santander in our country.

And in our broad-ranging discussions today, we have agreed, among other things, to work together to defend fundamental rights of humankind, the human rights that affect all of us, in particular, labor groups, indigenous groups, women´s groups, and others.  And we have also agreed to continue to work and cooperate with all countries to combat organized crime, in particular, transnational crime, which includes drug trafficking, which is - which attacks our democracies.

In our dialogue, we have expressed our gratefulness for the political will of the United States Government and, in particular, President Obama and Secretary Clinton to find all paths necessary to achieve ratification of the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States.  It is an agreement that helps the people and the Government of Colombia, and it also helps the people and Government of the United States.  And we also greatly appreciate the willingness of the U.S. Government and the U.S. Congress to extend the Andean Trade Preferences Act, not just to the region, but to Colombia in particular, this is a sign of great solidarity at a time when we are busy with the reconstruction of our country after the devastating floods.

And we also agreed to redouble our joint efforts along with Secretary Clinton and President
Santos Calderon regarding Haiti, to support the people of Haiti in their quest to elect, freely and fairly, their own leaders.  And we will consolidate our high-level dialogue, a dialogue that we began last year between the United States and Colombia.  This has been headed by Secretary Clinton.

We will be strengthening our programs, our - to discuss issues ranging from all kinds of progress in democracy, human rights, new technologies, energy, and also one that we have added after our dialogue today - the environment.  And on behalf of the Government of Colombia, President Santos, and the people of Colombia, I want to thank you very much for recognizing the progress that Colombia has made as a developing country to consolidate itself as a modern state in combating corruption, violence and impunity, and upholding human rights.

MR. CROWLEY:  First question, the Associated Press.

QUESTION:  Yes, Madam Secretary.  Excuse me, I have two rather direct questions to ask you about Egypt.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  The first:  Is President Mubarak finished?  The second:  Are you at this point condemning the violent crackdown against protestors?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, I think we have been answering those concerns for quite some time.  And as President Obama said yesterday very clearly, and as I said in Doha, it is absolutely vital for Egypt to embrace reform, to ensure not just its long-term stability, but also the progress and prosperity that its people richly deserve.

Now, Egypt has been a strong partner of the United States on a range of regional and strategic interests.  And as a partner, we believe strongly, and have expressed this consistently, that the Egyptian Government needs to engage with the Egyptian people in implementing needed political, economic, and social reforms.  We have consistently raised this with the Egyptian Government over many years.  We also have raised it with other governments in the region.  And there is a constant concern about the need for greater openness, greater participation on the part of the people, particularly young people, which is something I was very clear about in Doha.  And we want to continue to partner with the Egyptian Government and the Egyptian people.

Now, what will eventually happen in Egypt is up to Egyptians.  But it is important for us to make very clear that as a partner of Egypt, we are urging that there be a restraint on the part of the security forces, there not be a rush to impose very strict measures that would be violent, and that there be a dialogue between the government and the people of Egypt.  At the same time, we also would urge the protestors to engage in peaceful protests, which they have every right to do, and the deep grievances that they are raising deserve to be addressed.

But the real question we´re focused on is:  How can we support a better future for the people of Egypt that responds to their aspirations?  And as I´ve said before and as the President has also said, the Egyptian Government has a real opportunity in the face of this very clear demonstration of opposition to begin a process that will truly respond to the aspirations of the people of Egypt.  We think that moment needs to be seized, and we are hoping that it is.

MR. CROWLEY:  (Off-mike.)

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.

QUESTION:  Okay.

QUESTION:  When?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  When we have an agreement.  There are still negotiations[i]that are taking place.  And as the vice president and I discussed, when we have an agreed-upon text, we will, as quickly as possible, send it to the Congress.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) time (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  It is not yet in the form of agreement that we have been discussing with our Colombian counterparts.  They know what we need to do in order to get a successful outcome.  We don´t want to send an agreement just for the sake of sending an agreement.  We want to send an agreement and get it passed.

QUESTION:  What --

QUESTION:  So you want to change the agreement?  I mean, to --

SECRETARY CLINTON:  We are discussing about some clarifications and some concerns that we know will have to be addressed in the Congress.  I mean, I´m just being very clear with you.  We want to pass the agreement.  In order to pass the agreement, we have to be able to make the case to the Congress, and that is what I am intent upon doing.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) --

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Excuse me, this gentleman has the microphone.

QUESTION:  No, I have a second question.  In Colombia, a sector of the public opinion --

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Yes.

(Pause during interpretation.)

VICE PRESIDENT GARZON:  (Via interpreter)  I want to stress what´s really important and basic here.  I want to point out the great political will of President Obama, the Secretary of State, and of the U.S. Government and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to move as soon as possible to achieve ratification of this agreement.  I think that´s the most important thing.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  And we agree, and that´s why we want to proceed as quickly and effectively to guarantee success as possible.

MR. CROWLEY:  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you.


[i] clarifications

 

January 1, 2011

Chicago Tribune

We hope the president’s action on the Korea pact signals a welcome, if belated, acknowledgement that opening other countries’ markets to U.S. manufactured exports is a solid way to create jobs here…[The Colombia and Panama] trade pacts would make it easier for American companies to sell goods there that they make in the US…These trade pacts would equalize the treatment, to the benefit of U.S. companies and workers.

January 13, 2011
January 6, 2011
January 5, 2011

POLITICO - Bipartisanship can revive economy

POLITICO - Bipartisanship can revive economy

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By Rep. David Dreier / There are no higher priorities for our country right now than job creation and economic growth.
As the new Congress begins, every decision we make must be tied directly to those goals. If we are going to get our economy back on track, we need to take several key steps. These include making the current tax rates permanent, repealing the job-killing health care law and dramatically reducing federal spending.

Some of these efforts will divide Congress politically. But they are all a part of what House Republicans pledged we would do - and of what the American people expect us to do.
At the same time, there are areas in which both parties can work together. A strong trade agenda presents a unique opportunity to promote economic growth, global partnerships and bipartisan cooperation.
Unfortunately, the trade agenda has been allowed to languish for the past four years and, in some cases, has been thwarted. In the meantime, our economy and our global prestige have suffered. There´s never been a more important time to re-engage on trade.
Trade is often blamed for every manner of society´s ills. Globally connected commerce has been accused of having a hand in everything from terrorism to pandemics. In December, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez blamed it for the tragic mudslides that claimed dozens of lives in his nation and in Colombia.
Setting aside the disservice that such a claim does for addressing the true root causes of the great challenges we face, the reality of the role of trade is precisely the opposite of what this viewpoint presents. International trade plays an important part in improving a nation´s circumstances - far beyond the immediate scope of exports and imports.
Given the current climate, the direct economic impact is the most urgent. Opening up new markets for U.S. producers, farmers, service providers and investors is essential for spurring growth and creating new job opportunities for both union and nonunion workers here at home. The three markets with which we have pending free-trade agreements - Colombia, Panama and South Korea - represent 96 million consumers and $1.8 trillion in economic activity. The opportunity for U.S. job creators is enormous, so the delay in the agreements´ consideration is unjustifiable.
The benefits of trade, however, extend considerably beyond job creation and economic growth. Economic engagement across borders builds the strong global partnerships that are necessary to address the challenges of the 21st century. Whether the issue is tariffs or nuclear proliferation, the trust and spirit of collaboration forged through economic ties help the United States advance its interests and spread its values around the globe.
Enhancing prosperity through international trade also creates the resources necessary for essential efforts like improving environmental quality, protecting human rights and building democratic institutions. Raising living standards, in fact, helps alleviate many of society´s ills, including terrorism, pandemics and, yes, even the ability to respond to natural disasters in South America.
Reviving the trade agenda also helps with another challenge: partisan politics. Trade once enjoyed a strong bipartisan consensus. The last time there was a new Republican majority, we were enthusiastic about working with then-President Bill Clinton on the trade agenda. That collaboration produced some of the biggest bipartisan achievements of the 1990s.
We are eager, again, to join with a Democratic president in revitalizing America´s global leadership role in trade liberalization.
President Barack Obama has demonstrated a commitment to expanding trade by finalizing negotiations on a side agreement with South Korea, as well as through his National Export Initiative. Republicans stand ready as committed partners in these efforts to create new opportunities for Americans through greater international trade.
By working together to pass our three pending free-trade agreements and re-engaging in the bilateral, regional and multilateral negotiations that have languished, we can revive our stagnant job market and sluggish economy. We can re-energize our relationships with key international partners.
What´s more, we can demonstrate that Republicans and Democrats can come together for the sake of our economy and our country. Though many of the issues the 112th Congress faces will inevitably lead to a clash of ideas, both parties can and should work together with a renewed commitment to economic growth and global leadership through trade.

Read original article: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47044.html#ixzz1A9wMWiO1

January 5, 2011

EL ESPECTADOR / Has the FTA's Time Come?

EL ESPECTADOR / Has the FTA's Time Come?

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President Juan Manuel Santos´s message to Washington is, by now, clear: Colombia wants a close and productive relationship with the United States.  He may have new priorities such as improving relations with Venezuela and Ecuador and deepening ties with Asia (China especially). But these should not come at the expense of relations with the US.  Santos told the Washington Post he sees Colombia and the US as "strategic partners," working together to confront regional and global challenges like drugs.

All of that sounds good, but there is still the serious, pending matter of the bilateral free trade agreement.  The pact, signed by both governments and approved over four years ago by the Colombian Congress, languishes in the US Congress.  It is easy to understand why Santos does not want to devote much time and energy lobbying on an issue hopelessly caught up in partisan infighting in Washington.

But Washington is on the verge of change. On January 5th a new US Congress will be installed. With Republicans in control in the House of Representatives and having stronger representation in the Senate, how do prospects for the accord look today? And what other changes might be expected in US policy towards Colombia and its neighbors?

For the agreement´s supporters, there are hopeful signs but also some concerns. That John Boehner will replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House on January 5th opens up an opportunity.   Pelosi, responding to her Democratic constituency, had resisted bringing the measure to a vote.

Boehner, in contrast, is more committed to the agreement and has consistently supported free trade legislation.  He will have little difficulty mobilizing many Republican colleagues, though how much support he will be able to muster from the Tea Party is an open question.  He should also be able to count on support from the small number of pro free-trade Democrats. Getting the agreement through the Senate shouldn´t be a problem.

The question, however, is whether the White House is prepared to push for the measure and submit the bill for Congressional consideration.  President Obama, who has been indifferent on trade in his first two years in office, has consistently said he backs it. But it has not been a priority for him.  So far he has not been willing to spend political capital on it.  In some sense, trade would be a natural issue for Obama.  It fits with his recent move to the center and offers a chance to find common ground with Republicans.

But at the same time Obama is nervous about alienating his Democratic base (most importantly the powerful unions like the AFL-CIO) that are worried about free trade deals in the context of high unemployment (nearly 10 percent). On December 17th, Obama´s chief spokesman Robert Gibbs was not too encouraging.  He said the White House did not plan to submit the Colombia agreement to Congress "because it doesn´t have the votes."    Gibbs also expressed the greater urgency seen in the impending trade agreement with South Korea which, because of the rising concerns in Washington about North Korea, has broad ramifications.

On geo-political questions related to Latin America, the new Republican-led House of Representatives will also bring some important changes. Connie Mack from Florida, who is taking over as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, will put the Obama administration on the defensive for being too soft with Venezuela´s Hugo Chavez.

Mack is a hardliner who has urged the administration to name Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism because of its support of the FARC, ELN, ETA and its alliance with Iran. The new Chairwoman of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American from Miami, has a tough stance particularly on the Castro brothers and Chavez but also other Latin American leaders sympathetic to Cuba.   Mack and Ros-Lehtinen may not be applauding Santos´s rapprochement with Chavez, but there is no sign they will withdraw their support for Colombia and the trade agreement (which would only please Chavez).

In the coming period Washington is likely to remain uncertain and unpredictable. Santos´s domestic priorities, which emphasize human rights and rule of law, not only seek to strengthen Colombia´s democracy. They are also the best thing Santos can do to convince most Democrats and Republicans, in Congress and the White House, that the bilateral free trade agreement deserves ratification in 2011.
By Michael Shifter
 
To read the article in Spanish go to: http://www.elespectador.com/impreso/internacional/articulo-243157-le-llego-hora-al-tlc