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U.S., Colombia sign trade pact

November 23, 2006|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration signed a free-trade agreement Wednesday with the government of Colombia, despite strong Democratic Party objections that threaten to keep the pact from becoming law.

The signing ceremony at the Inter-American Development Bank culminated more than 2 1/2 years of work on the pact, which the White House sees as an important tool for promoting stability in the volatile Andean region.

"The agreement will deepen and strengthen our trade ties by providing new opportunities for U.S. businesses, manufacturers, farmers and ranchers to export their goods and services to one of Latin America's most robust economies," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative John Veroneau said.

Two-way trade between the U.S. and Colombia totaled $14.3 billion in 2005, with machinery, chemicals and agricultural goods topping U.S. exports. Crude oil was Colombia's No. 1 export to the U.S., followed by other energy products, clothing and cut flowers.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Veroneau left open the possibility that the pact's labor provisions might have to be renegotiated to address concerns raised by Democrats, who will control Congress beginning in January.

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