President Barack Obama uncertain committment to finalizing free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
President Barack Obama is committed to finalizing free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama but faces an uncertain outcome, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Council of The Americas conference of leaders from the Western Hemisphere in Washington DC, Clinton expressed some chagrin at seeing colleagues from Colombia and Panama, which have been pushing for final approval of trade deals signed by the Bush administration and have worked to address U.S. concerns.
“We are, as President Obama said in the State of the Union, committed to our free-trade agreements with both countries but we’re also facing very difficult challenges,” she said. “But I am absolutely here to reiterate that commitment.”
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk echoed Clinton’s comments in a speech to the same group.
“It is our goal to bring them to Congress as soon as we can. I cannot put a timeline on that, but they’re important to us,” Kirk said.
The pacts are unpopular with many Democrats and the White House has been reluctant to force a vote on them, especially ahead of the November congressional elections.
The delay is especially disappointing for Colombia, which signed its agreement with the United States in November 2006 and whose neighbor Venezuela has cut off trade because of Colombia’s close defense ties with the United States.
Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata, speaking at the same conference, repeated his hope Obama would ask Congress to approve the trade deal before Colombian President Alvaro Uribe leaves office in August.
However, the White House has given no indication that Obama intends to do that. READ MORE HERE.