Friday, January 25, 2008

Colombia pact

Caution, not cheerleading, would appear to be in order as the U.S. Congress considers a free-trade agreement with Colombia, perhaps this country's closest ally in South America. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged lawmakers to approve the deal yesterday before she left with nine Democratic lawmakers on a trip to Medellin, Colombia's capital. Rice is hoping to convince the legislators to vote for the trade accord, the Reuters international news agency reported. But the record of previous free-trade agreements has caused concern as many U.S. manufacturing businesses have moved to take advantage of lower wages in other countries. Indeed, the AFL-CIO strongly opposes the deal with Colombia, Reuters said. The three leading Democratic presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards — also oppose the pact. Rice acknowledged Thursday that Colombia still needs to improve its human rights record but said Congress should approve the deal to acknowledge the country's progress in reducing the influence of drug gangs and paramilitary forces. Colombia's capital used to be home to the infamous Medellin drug cartel. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has indicated she does not anticipate scheduling a vote on the pact this year. But Pelosi supported the free trade deal with Peru that was approved by Congress in December.

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