Bush presses Congress to approve trade pact with Colombia

March 13th, 2008 - 5:01 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 13 (IANS) The US Congress must approve the pending free trade pact with Colombia to help that country stand against Latin American “radicals” such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, President George W. Bush has said. In an address before the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Bush urged legislators to begin debating the trade pact when they return from their Easter recess, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Thursday.

In any case, the treaty must be approved “this year”, said Bush, in one of his most impassioned calls to date for the approval of the accord with Colombia.

“Time is running out and we must not allow delay to turn into inaction. The Colombia agreement is pivotal to America’s national security and economic interests right now, and it is too important to be held up by politics. There needs to be a vote on Colombia this year,” the president said.

Bush insisted a delay or refusal to approve the pact would send a signal that the US is not a trustworthy partner and would encourage leaders like Chavez, whose “agenda amounts to little more than empty promises and a thirst for power”.

Failure to ratify the trade treaty with Colombia “would cripple our influence in the region, and make other nations less likely to cooperate with us in the future”, Bush said.

The White House has launched a concerted pressure campaign on Congress to secure approval of the trade deal, which has been awaiting the green light from lawmakers for a year.

But the Democratic majority demands more progress on the part of Colombia, the world’s most dangerous country for labour organisers - in reducing impunity and violence against union members before it gives its approval to the treaty.

The White House says that if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an opponent of the accord, allows the matter to come to a vote, the administration would be able to obtain the 218 votes necessary for the pact’s approval in the lower chamber.

In his speech, Bush said he is ready to cooperate with leaders in Congress to clear the way for a vote on the free trade treaty with Colombia.

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