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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.