Colombian Free Trade Agreement Sent To Congress

President George W. Bush today forwarded to Congress a US/Colombian free trade agreement (FTA),
starting a time clock running for an up or down vote on the controversial pact within 90 days. The
agreement was negotiated last November, but ratification has been held up in view of some
congressional concerns over labor and human rights issues in Colombia.

The agreement has the general support of US textile manufacturers and importers, but is
strongly opposed by organized labor and some Democrats in Congress.

As the President submitted implementing legislation, US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab
said the FTA would make US workers, farmers and entrepreneurs more competitive by knocking down
trade barriers to 44 million customers in Colombia. Imports from Colombia for the most part already
enter the United States duty-free, but that authority must be renewed periodically, which creates
uncertainty in the market. The FTA would make that authority permanent, and it also would eliminate
Colombian duties on US exports. Schwab expressed the hope that Congress and the administration
could work together and “lock in a long-term, two-way trade partnership with an important ally.”

Although administration efforts to muster support for the FTA have not been entirely
successful up to this point, Schwab said it was necessary to submit the FTA at this time in order
to ensure a congressional vote this year. She said that further delay would mean that the
congressional session would end without a vote and the United States would lose an opportunity to “
level the playing field for American workers and [would put] vital US interests at risk.”

April 8, 2008