White House announces trade deal with Colombia

McClatchy NewspapersApril 6, 2011 

WASHINGTON — The White House on Wednesday is announcing a deal to ratify the long-stalled free trade agreement with Colombia — a move that backers say will boost the U.S. economy and improve the U.S. standing in Latin America.

House Republicans — who had threatened to block a pending $10 billion trade deal with South Korea if the administration didn't move on Colombia — hailed the move.

"We are estactic," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who just returned from a congressional trip to Colombia. "This is jobs, jobs, jobs. We have small businesses ready to go, to hire people, to get this started."

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also applauded the move, noting that U.S. tariffs on Colombian manufactured goods averaged just 0.1 percent last year, but that Colombian tariffs averaged 15 percent, and even higher for U.S. agriculture. Diaz-Balart said the U.S. market share in Colombia has slipped 40 percent in recent years as the trade agreement languished.

Congress had failed to sign off on the agreement in recent years, often citing concerns about Colombia's labor and human rights records.

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