Uribe Concludes U.S. Visit Marked by Honduran Crisis and FTA

By Dialogo
July 01, 2009

I'm glad to see the collaboration. Washington, 30 June (EFE).- Today the president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, concludes his visit to Washington, which has been marked by the crisis in Honduras and by Uribe’s efforts to unblock the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Colombia and the United States, awaiting ratification by the U.S. Congress. Uribe’s presence in Washington comes to an end with his participation 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 security policy. Subsequently, Uribe will travel from Washington to Panama to attend the inauguration ceremony of the elected Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on the following day. During the last forty-eight hours Uribe has pursued a tight agenda of meetings with high-ranking U.S. government’s officials, with whom he has discussed Colombia’s need to unblock the FTA and the fight against drug trafficking, among other issues. Nevertheless, the most important appointment was the one held yesterday at the White House, where he spent over an hour with President Barack Obama in a meeting that included the discussion of the ongoing crisis in Honduras. At the end of the meeting, both leaders were firmly condemned the military coup that, in Obama’s opinion, would set “a terrible precedent” for the Latin American region if it were to succeed. The two leaders devoted a good portion of their talks in the Oval Office to discussing the FTA, which Obama criticized when he was the Democratic candidate for president. U.S. Congressional Democrats resist the ratification of the treaty as they call for more guarantees for the protection of human rights and union activists in Colombia. In this regard, the U.S. president acknowledged that “there remains work to do,” but declared that he was “confident” in the possibility of progress toward the implementation of the treaty, which his predecessor, George W. Bush, described while in office as “pivotal” for U.S. national security. He declared that Uribe has guaranteed his wish to resolve issues about respect for human rights and that “great progress has been made.” Earlier, after meeting with the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Ron Kirk and Gary Locke, respectively, Uribe noted the fall in Colombian exports. Concretely, he remarked the problem of unemployment in Colombian cities that depend on the export of manufactured goods. According to Uribe, despite the preferential treatment given to Colombian exports under the ATPDEA program, cities like Medellín, Pereira, and Ibagué have an 18 percent unemployment rate, although the national average is 12.1 percent. He assured that, for this reason, the approval of the Free Trade Agreement, signed by both countries in November 2006, is key to “making progress toward the consolidation of security.”