Colombia Welcomes Ambassador Kirk’s Remarks on Administration’s Intent to Advance U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement
Washington, D.C. The Embassy of Colombia today welcomed remarks regarding the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) made by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in his testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee. Colombian Ambassador to the United States Gabriel Silva released the following statement:
"We welcome Ambassador Kirk´s remarks regarding the Obama Administration´s intent to move the trade agreement forward this year. Over the past few weeks, the Administration has expressed its commitment to the FTA, and we are pleased that there is a willingness to advance the agreement. Colombia values the longstanding diplomatic and economic alliance we maintain with the United States, and we stand ready to move forward.
"We also applaud Ambassador Kirk´s calling on Congress to extend Andean trade preferences as soon as possible. They are set to expire on Saturday, and without action by Congress, many of the Colombian industries that have been devastated by the aftermath of the epic floods, stand to suffer further economic harm. It is our hope that Congress will immediately approve legislation extending preferences in the coming days.
"With respect to remarks made during the hearing regarding human and labor rights in Colombia, we reject the notion that Colombia has done little to make progress on these critically important issues. To suggest that for years Colombia has stood idly by and not taken aggressive steps to protect human and labor rights, and enhance union rights and the rule of law, are claims not based on current facts. Often it is convenient to leverage old arguments based on Colombia´s past, but the Colombia of today is a different nation, and it is time for Colombia to receive a fresh assessment and recognition based on that reality.
"Let it be abundantly clear that the Santos Administration places a very high priority on protecting human and labor rights. As a nation, over the past many years, we have taken numerous steps to ensure that all Colombian citizens are afforded essential human rights. We have implemented a series of laws, modernized and reformed our judicial framework, and increased resources to protect vulnerable segments of the population. We consistently receive international recognition for these efforts from the ILO, the UN and nations around the world, including the United States. Most importantly and above all, we have made these strides to better our country and continue on our path to progress and prosperity."
For more information on Colombia's steps to protect human and labor rights, please see the attached fact sheet.
Passing the [Colombia free trade] agreement would create U.S. jobs by eliminating tariffs on U.S. exports to Colombia. Tariff elimination would enable U.S. exporters to compete on a level playing field with exporters from countries such as Canada and those in the European Union whose products already enter Colombia duty-free because of their existing trade agreements. It also would level the playing field between the United States and Colombia.
No priority facing our nation is more important than putting Americans back to work. We can send a strong signal of our commitment by passing the pro-growth Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Our standard of living and our standing in the world are both at stake.
New York Times
Congress should finally pass the trade agreement with Colombia — which would boost American exports and help an important ally of the United States. President Obama has pledged to double exports in five years and identified export promotion as a promising area in which to collaborate with American business. The president and American business could start by giving Senate Republicans and Democrats a sharp push to pass these essential bills.
Investor’s Business Daily
[A] new report from Congress shows U.S. firms losing major ground to competitors because [the Administration] won't act on free trade pacts with Colombia and Panama…Colombia is the third-biggest market for U.S. products in the hemisphere after Brazil and Mexico, and that losing it will cost the U.S. jobs and influence…The Senate report shows that the cost to American businesses is growing as trading partners like Colombia and Panama move ahead without us.
Those two countries (Colombia and Panama) lie in a strategically important region…Washington must do more to promote the spread of democracy and market economics. Free trade would provide U.S. allies with an important boost.
According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, approving the Colombia (free trade) pact would boost U.S. exports to that country by $1.1 billion per year. We need that business…With high unemployment, and a lackluster economic recovery, our region could use a boost from increased trade. Bottom line: Trade pacts have waited long enough. Get them approved.
When President Obama finally does present the (free trade) agreements for Panama and Colombia for a vote in the Congress, the Lone Star State's representatives will have good reason again to vote in favor. In 2009 Texas' exports to Colombia totaled $2.6 billion and to Panama just under $1 billion. Those numbers will only increase once markets are opened for U.S. products.