Obama Receives Uribe at the White House to Discuss Matters of Common Interest

By Dialogo
June 30, 2009

Washington, 29 June (EFE).- The president of the United States, Barack Obama, today receives his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, at the White House to address a wide range of topics on the bilateral agenda, among them the Free Trade Agreement bogged down in Congress. This is Obama and Uribe’s first meeting at the White House, although they met on April 18 during the fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The bilateral meeting will take place at 2:15 p.m. Washington time in the Oval Office, and according to the White House, Obama will first meet with Uribe alone, without press access, and then the two will hold an “expanded meeting,” after which they will be available to journalists. It is expected that the two leaders will go over topics on the bilateral agenda, among them the thorny subject of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by both countries in November 2006 and still bogged down in Congress as a result of Democratic reluctance and pressure from labor unions about the labor situation and human rights in Colombia. During his election campaign, Obama said that he would oppose ratification of the FTA with Colombia as long as violence against union activists continued. On taking office, he instructed his trade representative, Ron Kirk, to review the U.S. trade agenda and analyze ways to make improvements in the FTA. Uribe arrived in Washington on Sunday afternoon, for a two-day working visit that includes today’s meeting with Obama, as well as with high-ranking officials in his administration. Before meeting with Obama, Uribe will meet in the morning with the United States Trade Representative, Ron Kirk; the Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke; the director of the White House National Economic Council, Larry Summers; and the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Gil Kerlikowske. He will also meet with the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick. In addition, he will have lunch with representatives of think tanks and political analysts. In the afternoon, Uribe will also present the Order of St Charles, Great Cross Degree, to Tom Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, “who has been a friend of Colombia throughout his lengthy diplomatic career,” according to the official agenda. On Tuesday, Uribe will take part in a forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where he will discuss the incentives his administration is offering to investors and the achievements of his policy of “democratic security.” Subsequently, Uribe will travel from Washington to Panama to attend the swearing-in of Panamanian President-Elect Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal on the following day. Uribe is accompanied on this visit by Chancellor Jaime Bermúdez Merizalde, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Tourism Luis Guillermo Plata, and three secretaries.