WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will receive Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos for talks on a long-pending bilateral trade accord, the White House announced Wednesday.
The two leaders “are expected to approve the recently agreed-upon Action Plan Related to Labor Rights and to discuss next steps with regard to the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement,” the White House said in a statement.
Obama and Santos will also discuss bilateral cooperation on a number of economic, social and labor matters when they meet Thursday in Washington, the statement said.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the two presidents are expected to approve the Action Plan “that will lead to greatly enhanced labor rights in Colombia and clear the way for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to move forward to Congress.”
The accord was signed in November 2006 and has been awaiting ratification in the U.S. Congress since that time.
Once the Action Plan measures are approved by the two leaders, according to Deputy National Security Adviser Mike Froman, the treaty will be able to be submitted to Congress for ratification.
However, both Kirk and Froman repeatedly emphasized that no date has yet been set for that.
Within the framework of the Action Plan, Colombia commits itself to reforming its penal code by June 15 to include punishment for people taking measures or making threats affecting basic workers’ rights.
Also, the Colombian police will have to appoint 95 investigators by the end of the year who will be tasked with supporting the investigations into crimes against union members.
By April 22, the Santos administration will expand protections for union activists, workers who want to join a union and former union members who were threatened in the past.
Colombia is the world’s most dangerous country for labor activists.
The trade accord, Kirk said, will allow U.S. exports to Colombia to be expanded by $1 billion a year to total more than $13 billion annually.
Obama and Santos - who was at the U.N. headquarters in New York on Wednesday to chair a Security Council session - got together for the first time in a bilateral meeting at the U.N. General Assembly last September. EFE