Obama: US-Colombia trade deal to be implemented in May


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón greets US President Barack Obama upon arrival at Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the largest colonial fort in Colombia, for a Summit of the Americas leaders' dinner April 13, 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia.



A free trade agreement between the US and Colombia will come into effect next month — much earlier than expected — as a result of what the Obama administration called "historic" progress for Colombian worker protections and human rights.

According to Reuters, the announcement came during the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, where President Barack Obama has met political and business leaders, including Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, to push for better access to US exports.

"We believe this is a very historic step," said US Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

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US unions have opposed the trade deal because of Colombia's still-abysmal record of violence against labor leaders, reported the Associated Press. Union workers are an important part of Obama's constituency, but have opposed some of his efforts to expand free trade deals because of the belief they will take jobs away from American companies. Obama officials insisted they moved ahead with the deal only after Colombia took steps to stop deadly violence against labor unionists.

More than 80 percent of industrial and manufactured products exported from the US and Colombia will immediately become duty free under the terms of the agreement, making it cheaper for American businesses to sell their goods to the South American country. More than half of US agriculture exports to Colombia will also become duty free, according to the AP.