image description

April 2011

April 21, 2011
April 14, 2011

Bilateral Action Plan – A Welcome Path Forward to Advance the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

April 30, 2011

Washington Post

On Colombia, the White House and the Colombian government have agreed on an “action plan” to protect labor leaders, pursue crimes against union members and reform Colombian labor law. There are still a few procedural hurdles related to implementation of that plan, but it appears likely that the Obama administration will soon be ready to present Congress the Colombia deal, too.

April 19, 2011

Wall Street Journal

Colombian exporters already had unfettered access to U.S. markets under an oft-renewed trade preferences arrangement, though that access expired in February. The trade deal would renew that access permanently while opening Colombia to U.S. exports that now face high tariffs.

April 8, 2011
U.S. Government Recognizes Significant Progress on Human Rights in Colombia

Washington, D.C. - In its Annual Human Rights Report, issued today by the U.S. Department of State, Colombia was recognized for "notable improvements" in human rights.  In fact, the State Department highlighted Colombia as one of three countries that have achieved "notable positive human rights developments in 2010."

The Report stated:

Colombia is a country where there were notable improvements in the human rights situation in 2010. Soon after taking office in August, President Santos and his administration strengthened the government's relationship with civil society and human rights defenders, holding high-level consultative sessions, publicly expressing support for human rights defenders and engaging them in dialogue, and supporting efforts to increase penalties for threats and violence against human rights defenders. The government advanced a Land and Victims' Law to provide for land restitution and victims' reparations.

"In Colombia, the government began consulting with human rights defenders. It is supporting efforts to stop violence. It has passed a law to restore land and pay reparations to the victims of the very long civil conflict that occurred in Colombia," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
During his meeting yesterday with President Obama in the White House, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that Colombia and the United States have long enjoyed the benefits of an alliance based on cooperation, common democratic principles and progressive values.

"President Obama and I share common values - values having to do with democracy, the progressive ideas that we share. Our government is working every day to guarantee and protect the human rights.  We want to strengthen our democracy, and it´s going to re-strengthen the capacity that we have to defend our workers´ rights," said President Santos.

The full Human Rights Report is available at http://www.state.gov/

###

Estados Unidos destaca notable progreso de Colombia en materia de Derechos Humanos

"El Presidente Santos y su Administración fortalecieron la relación del Gobierno con la sociedad civil y los defensores de Derechos Humanos", dice el Informe Anual del Departamento de Estado.

El Gobierno de Estados Unidos reconoció este viernes las "notables mejorías" de Colombia en materia de Derechos Humanos, durante el 2010. Así lo destaca el Informe Anual del Departamento de Estado sobre DD.HH.

Durante la presentación del documento, en Washington DC, la Secretaria de Estado de EE.UU., Hillary Clinton, reconoció los avances de Colombia en esta materia.

"En Colombia, el Gobierno inició consultas con los defensores de Derechos Humanos y está haciendo esfuerzos para acabar con la violencia. El Gobierno presentó una ley para restituir tierras y reparar a las víctimas del largo conflicto que ha ocurrido en el país", dijo Clinton.

El documento, que recopila información sobre la situación de Derechos Humanos en 194 países y territorios del mundo, destaca además, el esfuerzo del Gobierno Nacional en el fortalecimiento de la relación con los defensores de Derechos Humanos.

"Colombia es un país donde hubo notables mejorías en la situación de los Derechos Humanos en el 2010. Tan pronto se posesionó en agosto, el Presidente Santos y su Administración fortalecieron la relación del Gobierno con la sociedad civil y los defensores de Derechos Humanos, a través de reuniones, consultas de alto nivel y expresando públicamente el apoyo y voluntad de diálogo con los defensores de Derechos Humanos y apoyando los esfuerzos con el fin de aumentar las penas para quienes comentan violaciones contra ellos", dice el reporte.

Agrega que la Administración avanzó en el proyecto de ley de restitución de tierras y reparación a las víctimas.

Así mismo, asegura que el Ministerio de Defensa inició la implementación de un acuerdo con la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los DD. HH. con el fin de "supervisar que se estén cumpliendo las medidas adoptadas por el Ministerio para mejorar el respeto de los Derechos Humanos".

Por mandato, la Secretaria de Estado remite anualmente este informe al Presidente de la Cámara de Representantes y al Comité de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado de EE.UU. e incluye diferentes fuentes, como las entidades estatales, juristas, Fuerzas Armadas, periodistas, Organizaciones no Gubernamentales y sindicales, y académicos.

Durante su reunión con el Presidente Barack Obama en la Casa Blanca, este jueves 7 de abril, el Presidente Santos destacó los valores democráticos y progresistas,  comunes entre ambos gobiernos.

Indicó que su Administración seguirá "tomando medidas con el objetivo de tener una democracia donde los derechos fundamentales de la gente en general, de los trabajadores en particular, sean garantizados. Eso, como les decía, es algo que nosotros tenemos como objetivo fundamental y por eso este paso muy importante nos fortalece también nuestra democracia y nuestra capacidad de seguir garantizando los derechos de los colombianos", concluyó el Jefe de Estado colombiano.

###

April 7, 2011
Remarks by President Obama and President Santos of Colombia After Bilateral Meeting

April 22, 2011 4:18 P.M. EDT PRESIDENT OBAMA:  It is my great pleasure to welcome President Santos and the rest of the delegation from Colombia here to the White House.

     I had the pleasure of meeting President Santos shortly after he was elected, on the sidelines of meetings at the United Nations, and we are now continuing our conversation.

     The United States has an enormous interest in the development of Latin America and an enormous interest in progress in Colombia.  We have been a partner there as Colombia dealt with some very difficult times and has now blossomed into a strong democracy that is respectful of human rights and is moving forward vigorously to provide economic opportunity for all of its people.

     President Santos I think is at the forefront of a progressive and thoughtful agenda within Colombia.  He´s obviously initiating a whole range of reforms.  Colombia is also a leader when it comes to security in the region, and we are glad that we´ve been able to partner with Colombia not only to deal with security situations inside Colombia, but now increasingly Colombia can be a role model for the rest of the region.

     And I just realized I was going to have translation, so let me stop there, and then we can continue.

     In short, Colombia is one of our strongest partners not only in the region but around the world.  And when we met in September, I suggested to President Santos that we should do even more to deepen and strengthen our relationship.  And in pursuit of that deepening relationship, I dispatched my team to Colombia to discuss how we can finally move forward on trade agreements between our two countries.

     So today, I am very pleased to announce that we have developed an action plan for labor rights in Colombia, consistent with our values and interests, but more importantly, consistent with President Santos´ vision of a just and equitable society inside of Colombia.  And we believe that this serves as a basis for us moving forward on a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement.

     Now, there´s obviously a lot of work to do to translate this action plan into reality.  And we are going to continue to engage with President Santos and his administration in an active process to ensure good working conditions, to make sure that trade unionists are protected, to make sure that we´re creating a level of playing field for business and workers here and around the world.

        And so I very much appreciate President Santos´ efforts.  He emphasized to me how important this is to him personally and the fact that Colombia sees a vision for its country in which all workers are treated fairly.  And I have great confidence in his ability to be able to execute on this plan, and we look forward to working with him on it.

       Now, obviously, the United States represents an important market for Colombian businesses, and so this is going to be a win for Colombia.  It´s also a win for the United States.  This represents a potential $1 billion of exports and it could mean thousands of jobs for workers here in the United States.  And so I believe that we can structure a trade agreement that is a win-win for both our countries, and I´m looking forward to working with President Santos to ensure that both countries benefit.  And this will help me meet my goal of making sure the United States has doubled exports over the coming years and that we´re as competitive as we can be in a global marketplace in the 21st century.

      Finally, let me just say that President Santos obviously has strong connections with the United States and particularly with the Kansas Jayhawks.  (Laughter.)  We were both disappointed that Kansas did not go all the way, but President Santos assures me that there´s always next year.

      And so I appreciate President Santos not only for having faith in my bracket, but also having faith in the strong relationship and friendship between the United States and Colombia.

      And I am looking forward to visiting Colombia next year for the Summit of the Americas, in which I think, under President Santos´ leadership, I´m confident we´ll be able to do a lot of work to strengthen relations with all the countries in the hemisphere.

       So, President Santos, welcome.

       His English is better than mine, but he may decide to present in Spanish and have it translated into English so he can speak to his people back home.

Thank you.

END
4:40 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT SANTOS:  (As translated.)  Well, I´m going to be speaking in Spanish because I´d like to have all of my countrymen in Colombia able to hear me.

      First of all, I want to thank President Obama very deeply.  I want to thank him personally and I also want to thank him on behalf of the Colombian people, and thank his administration for welcoming us to the White House and to the United States at this time.  I know it´s a very intense political time for you, so I think you very specially.

      We met back in September, as the President said, and we decided then that we wanted to strengthen our relationship and we wanted to broaden our relationship.  And I think that since then we´ve made good progress.  And within that progress that I´ve referred to, the most important thing for Colombia, of course, is the good news that we´ve had with regard to the free trade agreement today.  We´ve been working on getting a green light for this to go to Congress for five years, and we got that green light today.

      This is a very important event for Colombia.  It´s important not just because of our foreign trade but also because of our relationship with the United States and for the progress and development of Colombia.  We´re extremely pleased as a result because this is part of the development plan that we´re working on for Colombia to achieve development and even better progress with social justice.

      And President Obama and I share common values—values having to do with democracy, the progressive ideas that we share—and this event takes us one step further in the defense of those values.  The free trade agreement for Colombia means more jobs; it means more trade, more investment, more prosperity as a result.  But the same is true for the United States.  The United States has been losing markets in Colombia because of the free trade agreements that we have already signed with other nations.  Now that relationship is going to become more balanced and the trade balance between us is going to be corrected.

      The action plan that is giving the green light to the free trade agreement is one that establishes stronger defense of workers -- physical defense of workers.  And in it, we put down in black and white objectives, and along with those objectives, a date for each one.

     The first date we have set forth is April 22nd.  April 22nd is going to carry with it a series of commitments with regard to worker protections, worker rights, the strengthening of justice.  And so we are going to start off on April 22nd with making a presentation to Congress.

     And so a number of measures are going to be taken after that with regard to objectives having to do with democracy, where the rights of all, and especially the rights of workers, are going to be guaranteed and protected.  This important step is going to strengthen our democracy, and it´s going to restrengthen the capacity that we have to defend our workers´ rights.

     And, finally, the President and I had an opportunity to touch on other issues on the agenda that we share.  Opening up the way for the free trade agreement allows us to take our strategic relationship even further.  We discussed things like the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which is going to be hosted by Colombia in April of 2012, in the city of Cartagena.

     We talked about how we will work together to follow up on President Obama´s historic Latin America visit, a visit in which in his speech he presented an outline of how the United States will be working with Latin America.  And we want to take specific actions now on Latin America and the United States in the relationship that they will be developing in the future.

     As you know, the United States has a growing Hispanic population.  This is a very important link with Latin America, and we want to strengthen it even more.

     Thank you.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.

     Q    Did you make progress on the budget talks?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.

     Q    No talk on the budget at all?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.

Link to video: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/04/07/president-obama-meets-colombian-president-santos

April 6, 2011
Presidents Santos, Obama to Meet at White House Tomorrow to Announce Plans for Moving Forward on U.S.-Colombia FTA

Washington, D.C. April 6, 2011. The President Juan Manuel Santos will visit the White House tomorrow for a meeting with President Obama regarding next steps to advance the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Over the past several weeks, U.S. and Colombian government negotiators have held high-level meetings to discuss a path towards approval of the FTA. Tomorrow, the two presidents will meet at the White House to announce plans to move this important agreement forward.

Last September, President Santos and President Obama met in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, and committed to fortify the already strong bilateral relationship and forge new pathways for cooperation and partnership, including efforts to promote economic development in both nations. The U.S.-Colombia FTA is central to that commitment and to helping the United States and Colombia maintain and increase jobs supported through bilateral trade.

On November 22, 2006, the United States and Colombia signed the FTA, which would make permanent a reciprocal two-way trading relationship, bolster export growth and support jobs. The agreement would immediately provide duty-free access to the Colombian market for more than 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial goods, with remaining tariffs phased out in five to 10 years. Colombia would also grant immediate duty-free access to more than 75 percent of U.S. agricultural products, with the remaining tariffs phased out over time. 

###

April 5, 2011
President Santos to Speak about Latin America’s Importance to the United States at Brown University

“It's Time for U.S. to Start Looking Upon Its Own Hemisphere:” Santos

Washington DC, April 5 2011.  President of the Republic of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, will visit Brown University in Rhode Island today at 6:00pm, where he will speak about the importance that Latin America should have for the United States because that is where this hemisphere´s potential lies.

"For the United States, instead of looking for strategic interests on the other side of the world, I think it would be best for them, and for everyone, if they look to their neighbors, because that is where this hemisphere´s potential lies. That is why I say it is best to look south," said the Colombian President on Tuesday.

Santos Calderón will participate in the Ibero-American Forum, and will deliver a lecture titled "Why People Should Give More than a Damn About Latin America," organized by Brown University.

The President of Colombia will deliver the message that Latin America is a continent with a great future and is home to everything the world is demanding, and for these reasons, the United States paying attention to the region would be mutually beneficial. 

"I will speak about the importance not only for Latin America but also for the United States of looking south, of paying attention to Latin America. We are a continent with a great future. We have everything the world is demanding. And as people say, and with all due respect, they better give a damn, because I believe this would be best, not just for the United States, but also for Latin America," stated Santos Calderón.

###

"Es tiempo de que EE.UU. dirija su mirada hacia su propio hemisferio": Santos

Washington DC, 5 de abril, 2011. El Presidente de la República, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, asistirá este martes a las 6:00 de la tarde a la Universidad de Brown, en Rhode Island, en donde hablará sobre la importancia que debe tener América Latina para los Estados Unidos, porque allá está el potencial para el hemisferio.

"Para Estados Unidos, en lugar de buscar sus intereses estratégicos al otro lado del mundo, creo que les conviene y nos conviene a todos que miren a sus vecinos, porque ahí está el potencial para el hemisferio. Por eso digo que más les vale mirar hacia el sur", dijo este martes el Jefe de Estado colombiano.

Santos Calderón participará en el Foro de Iberoamérica y dictará la cátedra `Por qué América Latina importa más que un bledo´, organizada por la Universidad de Brown.

El Presidente de Colombia asegurará que América Latina es un continente con gran futuro, que tiene todo lo que el mundo está demandando, por lo cual Estados Unidos debe ponerle atención, ya que eso les conviene a ambas partes.

"Voy a hablar sobre la importancia no tanto para América Latina sino para Estados Unidos de mirar al sur, de pararle bolas a América Latina. Nosotros somos un continente con un gran futuro. Tenemos todo lo que el mundo está demandando. Y como quien dice, y con todo respeto, más les vale pararnos bolas, porque creo que esto sería muy bueno tanto para Estados Unidos como para América Latina", afirmó Santos Calderón.

###

 

April 4, 2011
Grupo Phoenix Creates 240 New Jobs in Virginia and Invests $25 Million with its’ First Manufacturing Plant in the U.S.

Washington, DC, April 4th, 2011. Grupo Phoenix, a Colombia company and a leading international plastics manufacturer, announces the official inauguration of its first manufacturing plant in the United States.

The company, along with Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia and various state and local officials and representatives of the Colombian government, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 30, 2011 in Dublin, VA to mark the occasion.

"We are here to bring jobs back to America," Alberto Peisach, President and Chief Executive Officer of Grupo Phoenix said to applause at the factory's ribbon-cutting Wednesday, "paved by free enterprise with the support of our state and local government."

Phoenix Packaging Operations, LLC, a subsidiary of Grupo Phoenix, invested approximately $25 million into the manufacturing facility, which will create 240 new jobs in Dublin.

This first plant in Virginia was built thanks to the benefits of ATPDEA (Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act). Part of the raw materials come from plants located in Colombia and Mexico, and this is why it is important to obtain the renewal of these preferences.

The group is in further talks with Virginia´s state and local governments for a possible second phase of funding which would increase the total investment to $40 million and create an additional 100 new jobs within the next twelve months. "Your new problem in this part of the county is going to be traffic congestion!" joked Governor Bob McDonnell at the ceremony alluding to the significant impact the plant opening will have to the unemployment figures in the area.

Phoenix´s state-of-the-art production plant was completed after a worldwide search to bring the best equipment, raw materials and assembly to Virginia.  This will allow the company to produce using the leading technology in extrusion, thermoforming, printing and barrier packaging for the dairy, coffee and food industry.  The group also heavily invested its resources to conduct a large-scale human resource effort, ensuring its work force has substantial experience in the industry.

During his speech at the ceremony, Alberto Peisach said, "Grupo Phoenix is committed to growing side by side with its customers.  Our strong commitment to our clients is reflected in the construction of this state-of-the-art manufacturing plant, strategically located to supply our North American clients with quality products, superior customer service, and assurance of constant supply."

Grupo Phoenix, a private owned company, has been one of the leading manufacturers of injection-molded plastic packaging, thermoformed products, foil lidding and extruded barrier packaging in Latin America for the last 30 years.  The company, with ten locations in Latin America and the United States, employs more than 4,000 people in four countries and exports to 30 countries worldwide. Grupo Phoenix manufactures packaging solutions for major companies and household names in the dairy, dessert, sauces and coffee market.

###

Grupo Phoenix de Colombia Inauguró Primera Planta de Manufactura en Virginia, Estados Unidos

Washington DC, April 4, 2011. El Grupo Phoenix, empresa colombiana y líder en la fabricación de productos plásticos a nivel internacional, inauguró su primera planta de manufactura en Estados Unidos, con la cual generará 240 nuevos puestos de trabajo en Dublin.

Momento en que se inaugura la primera Planta El Grupo Phoenix en Dublin, Virginia, por parte de Robert McDonnell, Gobernador de Virginia, y los des representante de la empresa colombiana, entre ellos, Alberto Peisach Presidente y CEO de Grupo Phoenix.

La ceremonia de inauguración se cumplió el pasado 30 de marzo de 2011, en Dublin, Virginia, con la participación de Robert McDonnell, Gobernador de Virginia, y la asistencia de varios oficiales locales y estatales, así como de representantes del Gobierno de Colombia.

"Estamos aquí para regresar puestos de trabajo a América", afirmó Alberto Peisach Presidente y CEO de Grupo Phoenix. "El camino para lograrlo fue preparado y trabajado por iniciativa de la empresa privada, con el apoyo del gobierno estatal y local´, agregó.

La sociedad Phoenix Packaging Operations, LLC, subsidiaria de Grupo Phoenix, invirtió una cantidad aproximada a los $25 Millones de dólares, para poner en funcionamiento la planta manufacturera inaugurada, la cual generará 240 nuevos empleos en Dublin.

Esta primera planta en Virginia se construyó gracias a los beneficios del Atpdea (Ley de Preferencias Arancelarias Andinas y Erradicación de Drogas). Parte de la materia prima viene de plantas ubicadas en Colombia y México. Por ello, la importancia de obtener la renovación de estas preferencias.

El Grupo Phoenix ha venido negociando con funcionarios estatales y locales del Estado de Virginia, la posibilidad de llevar a cabo una segunda fase de expansión, que podría incrementar la inversión a una suma total de $40 millones de dólares y generar 100 nuevos trabajos adicionales, en un periodo aproximado de doce meses.

"El nuevo problema en esta parte del condado, será la congestión en el tráfico", bromeo el Gobernador Robert McDonell, en la ceremonia, aludiendo al importante y positivo impacto que tendrá la apertura de la planta frente al nivel de desempleo existente en la zona.

El montaje técnico de la planta manufacturera de Grupo Phoenix fue finalizado luego de realizar una búsqueda a nivel mundial de equipos y materia prima de la más alta calidad, elementos que fueron adquiridos y traídos a Virginia para el ensamblaje de la maquinaria y puesta en funcionamiento de la planta.

Esto permitirá a la compañía manufacturar productos para la industria de alimentos, incluyendo el mercado de lácteos y café, mediante la utilización de tecnología de punta para procesos de extrusión, termoformado, impresión y fabricación de empaques de alta barrera.

El Grupo Phoenix ha realizado de igual forma, una enorme inversión y esfuerzo, para asegurar que su recurso humano cuente con importante experiencia en la industria.

Alberto Peisach, mencionó durante el discurso que brindó en la ceremonia, que: "Grupo Phoenix se ha comprometido a crecer conjuntamente con sus clientes. Nuestro fuerte compromiso se refleja en la construcción de esta planta de producción de alta tecnología, localizada estratégicamente para proveer a los clientes ubicados en Norte América con productos de calidad, prestar un excelente servicio de atención al consumidor  y  asegurar un suministro de productos continuo".

Grupo Phoenix, una compañía constituida por capital privado, ha sido una de las líderes en procesos de manufactura de empaques plásticos inyectados y/o termoformados, fabricación de tapas de aluminio y extrusión y termoformado de empaques de alta barrera, en América Latina, durante los últimos treinta años.

La compañía, que cuenta con diez sedes en Latinoamérica y en los Estados Unidos, genera más de 4,000 empleos en cuatro países y realiza exportaciones a 30 países en todo el mundo.  Grupo Phoenix fabrica soluciones de empaques para importantes y renombradas compañías en los sectores de alimentos, especialmente lácteos, postres,  salsas y café, entre otros.

###

 

April 11, 2011

Los Angeles Times

This pact will help U.S. firms and farmers remain competitive by eliminating taxes on key exports and allowing corn, rice and other agricultural products to enter Colombia duty free. Right now, Colombian products enter the U.S. without paying any tariffs, but U.S. products face high taxes there. The International Trade Commission has estimated the agreement will increase exports of U.S. goods by $1.1 billion.

April 7, 2011

Miami Herald

Colombia is South Florida’s second-largest trade partner (after Brazil), with $6.86 billion in total trade in 2010. A free trade agreement facilitates commerce between the two countries and will have a positive economic impact on this community. Approval of the agreement would also help U.S. exports to Colombia. Last year, those tariffs averaged 15 percent, but a free trade agreement would mean 80 percent of all goods traded back and forth would become duty-free immediately. It’s a win-win deal.

April 7, 2011

Kansas City Star

Colombian products are already duty-free when shipped to the United States. Under the proposed deal, most American exports to Colombia would be freed from tariffs. Four-fifths of consumer and industrial products would be duty-free immediately, with the remaining tariffs phased out over a decade. More than half of U.S. farm products, especially important in the Midwest, would be duty-free immediately, with the tariffs vanishing over 15 years. President Barack Obama has said he wants to double exports, a worthy aspiration. To make it happen, Washington will have to pry open more overseas markets. Approving these agreements would be a big step in that direction.

April 6, 2011

Washington Post

If and when the Colombia treaty is approved, U.S. sales to the country may increase by $1 billion annually — a tiny step toward Mr. Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015. But the political benefits will be far more significant. Mr. Obama will send a message that the United States is serious about forging closer partnerships with Latin America’s rapidly growing economies; he will end a debate that for five years has bedeviled relations with a close ally; and he will show that his administration can make real progress on trade. The sooner the action plan with Colombia can be implemented, the better.

April 26, 2011

Salt Lake City Deseret News

By Leland Hogan, President, Utah Farm Bureau Federation

Of great importance are three trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama that have been stalled in Congress for several years. Now, as the administration and Congress sit idly by, we are losing almost $2.5 billion per year in agriculture exports… Passing these trade agreements also means leveling the playing field. Currently, U.S. products going into these countries face exorbitant tariffs just to get into these markets. Yet, while we pay tariffs of up to 160 percent to sell to the Colombia and Panama markets, they receive duty-free access to the U.S. market for their goods. In Korea, tariffs of up to 500 percent are placed on U.S. goods. Passing these trade agreements would immediately eliminate most of these tariffs.

April 25, 2011

Roll Call

By Bill Thomas, Former Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means

The long winter surrounding U.S. trade policy is starting to thaw. While this Congress and the administration have yet to do anything to actually liberalize trade, it has reappeared on the to-do list of lawmakers…While I’m encouraged by the near-term opportunities for trade deals this year, it simply isn’t enough. Buttressed by the knowledge that individual trade disputes can be addressed through existing mechanisms, we need to be vigorous in our pursuit of the broader free-trade agenda. That means first passing the pending trade agreements, then renewing the TPA.

April 22, 2011

Foreign Policy

By Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

The FTA would eliminate these tariffs on U.S. goods. It would reduce the cost of high-quality U.S. agricultural exports, including wheat, beef, barley, peas, lentils, and seed potatoes from my home state of Montana. And it would reduce the cost of goods produced by U.S. manufacturers that send products to Colombia, nearly 90 percent of which are small and medium-sized businesses.

April 19, 2011

The Hill

By John Murphy, Vice President for International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Washington policy debates often display stark differences of opinion on goals, process, and even values. But as spring unfolds, the capital’s trade mavens are confronted with the spectacle of consensus bursting out like so many cherry blossoms… And what is the consensus? That the United States needs to approve the pending trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama now — within the next few weeks. That we need to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance, the Andean Trade Preferences, and the Generalized System of Preferences.

April 3, 2011

Wall Street Journal

By Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)

Let's be clear: Trade is critical to American innovation and economic growth. It can expand opportunity for workers and entrepreneurs, both at home and abroad. Colombia is a prime example. The International Trade Commission estimates the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, or FTA, will increase U.S. exports by more than $1 billion a year. To the farmers and workers whose jobs these exports would help sustain, that's much more than a statistic. To help our economy continue to recover, we should unite around a trade agenda that includes approval of this FTA and extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance for American workers.

April 1, 2011

Daily Record (Parsippany, NJ)

By Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)

Specifically, many of our large chemical companies — Merck, Schering-Plough and Johnson & Johnson — currently face tariffs averaging 8 percent to 20 percent on their exports to Colombia. The FTA will eliminate immediately 82 percent of chemical tariffs and phase out the rest over 10 years. Similarly, Colombia will eliminate tariffs now on New Jersey's leading exports including electrical equipment, plastics, resins and farm products such as fruits and berries, flour, soybean meal and certain corn products.

April 29, 2011

NPR “All Things Considered”

Colombia is one of the biggest markets in Latin America — so would-be exporters like wheat farmer Gordon Stoner are anxious to see that deal move forward. “Exports are just critical to my profitability and continued operation of the farm,” he says. Stoner farms about 11,000 acres in northeastern Montana, just a few miles from the Canadian border. Canada has its own trade deal with Colombia, so Stoner's northern neighbors will soon be selling their wheat there duty free, while he and other American farmers are facing tariffs of 15 percent.

April 29, 2011

McClatchy Newspapers

Colombia's National Association of Flower Exporters said some of the country's prime flower-farming areas were among the hardest-hit by storms that have intensified over the past two weeks. While the association is still trying to tally the damage, some farms — particularly in the savanna north of the capital — have been totally wiped out…Colombian growers were already reeling from a weak dollar, which makes flowers more expensive, and the U.S. decision in February to allow trade preferences to expire. As a result, Colombian flowers are slapped with a 6.8 percent tariff.

April 28, 2011

Associated Press

The presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru signed an agreement Thursday expressing their commitment to pursue integration of their economies and a strengthening of trade links with the Asia-Pacific region. The four leaders said the envisioned trade alliance — which Panama and Ecuador could possibly also join — would be the biggest trade zone in Latin America, surpassing the Mercosur common market of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. "Our four nations, and Panama in the near future, represent 200 million people.

April 28, 2011

Dow Jones

Colombia's Congress passed a $317 billion development plan for the next four years late on Wednesday to boost health care and education spending, while expanding the booming mining, coal and oil industries. Investment is pouring into Colombia, especially in oil and mining, as a U.S.-backed crackdown on rebels has helped control violence and made it more attractive to foreign companies. Colombia regained its coveted investment-grade credit rating from Standard & Poor's in March and is expecting Fitch or Moody's to follow suit soon.

April 27, 2011

Miami Herald

The hit comes as growers were preparing shipments for Mother’s Day on May 8 — when a quarter of all flower sales take place in the United States, according to the Society of American Florists. Colombia is the United States’ top flower exporter, supplying 65 percent of all the country’s fresh-cut flowers. And Miami handles 89 percent of all flower imports that come into the United States.

April 26, 2011

White House Daily Press Briefing

We feel very good about the progress that has been made on the Colombian trade agreement…As you know, we’ve reached an agreement on an action plan outlining steps that the Colombian government needs to take on labor issues, and that’s moving….We believe that we need to -- the Congress needs to move on these because they are job creators here in America.

April 26, 2011

Colombia Reports

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced plans to increase resources for the protection of union workers by 50% for 2012, in accordance with the labor rights focus of the U.S.-Colombia bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), the president's office reported Tuesday. Speaking in audience with Colombia's General Confederation of Workers (CGT), Santos said that the program to protect union workers, which currently covers around 1,500 workers, will contract 100 new inspectors over the next year, who will be responsible for ensuring that labor cooperatives are not taking advantage of their members.