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US Hopes for Progress on Colombia Trade Deal

The White House says the United States hopes to make progress with Colombia on a stalled free trade agreement between the two countries.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Saturday that President Barack Obama has asked Trade Representative Ron Kirk to work with Colombian officials to discuss remaining U.S. concerns on issues such as violence against labor leaders in Colombia.

Gibbs said Ambassador Kirk has spoken with Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, as well as the country's finance minister, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, about the U.S. concerns. Gibbs made his remarks at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

Many U.S. Democrats, including President Obama, have said they oppose the free trade deal because of Colombia's often-criticized record on human rights and labor union activity.

Mr. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, said the trade agreement was in the U.S. interest because it would boost exports, which he said accounted for about half of the country's economic growth in 2007.

Colombia is the United States' closest ally in Latin America. The South American country has received billions of dollars from the United States - mostly in military aid - since President Uribe has been in power.