News / Asia

    US-Latin America Free Trade Agreements Moving Forward

    Senior Obama administration officials on Tuesday discussed the timeline for sending renegotiated free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea to Congress for consideration.  

    After several years of delay, the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement as well as free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea appear to be on track for consideration by Congress.

    The recent ratification by Panama of a tax treaty removed a major hurdle in a sequence of steps that officials say clears the way for discussions with U.S. lawmakers about the agreements.

    "They have done a number of things that make us now in a strong position to begin the informal process of walking through the agreement with the [U.S.] Congress," said Deputy United States Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro.

    Sapiro said steps Panama has taken include actions to eliminate remaining restrictions on labor rights as well as legal reforms connected to collective bargaining rights and protections for workers.  

    At the White House next week, President Obama and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli are expected to discuss next steps for the U.S. - Panama accord, and a new regional security initiative.

    "The meeting and moving forward on the agreement underscore the historic relationship  between the U.S. and Panama, one of our closest allies," said Dan Restrepo, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs on the National Security Council.

    But administration officials are not being specific about the timeline for bringing the trade accords up in Congress.  There has been opposition on Capitol Hill to including all three agreements in a single legislative package.

    In Tuesday's telephone news conference, officials said the Panama and South Korea accords are at a stage where the process of formulating legislation with members of Congress can begin.  But the administration wants to ensure that the Colombian government is meeting specific goals that are part of an "action plan."

    That plan, aimed at legal reforms to strengthen rights and protections for workers and labor organizers, was a topic of discussions President Obama had earlier this month at the White House with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.

    Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, told reporters on Tuesday that the Obama administration does not see requiring Colombia to achieve all of the milestones and deadlines in the plan.  

    He said the United States will evaluate Colombia's progress on its commitments and make a judgment, adding that a timeline will depend on consultations with congressional leaders on how to "sequence, time and package" the accords and related issues.

    Remaining concerns in Congress about the Colombia free trade agreement, as well as a separate issue involving Colombia's handling of an alleged Venezuelan drug lord, were the subject of discussions between U.S. lawmakers and President Santos in Bogota.

    U.S. business associations generally support the administration's push to complete the three trade agreements.  In particular, officials point to union support by the United Auto Workers for the Korea accord.

    But the head of the largest U.S. trade confederation, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, recently renewed his criticism of the accords, including the Colombia agreement, questioning whether they would help the U.S. economy or do enough to protect workers in the countries concerned.

    In remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Mike Froman said the Obama administration hopes to be able to achieve as broad support as possible in Congress from both sides of the political aisle for the three trade agreements.

    Although many members of President Obama's Democratic Party support the trade deals, some Democrats continue to voice concerns.   Democratic Representative Sander Levin of Michigan says more work needs to be done with legal changes and reforms in Colombia regarding worker rights.

    On Tuesday, Maine Democratic Representative Mike Michaud issued a statement calling all three agreements flawed, adding that he and others in Congress would work to defeat them.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.