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Bush, former Clinton officials push Congress to support free-trade pact with Colombia

Bush, former Clinton officials push Congress to support free-trade pact with Colombia

President George W. Bush joined forces with top former Clinton White House officials on Tuesday to argue that a free-trade pact with Colombia is a must-pass item for the U.S. Congress.
The Bush administration signed a bilateral free trade agreement with Colombia in 2006. But the required approval from Congress has not been forthcoming. Capitol Hill's Democratic leaders have refused, citing human rights violations in Colombia and its standing as the deadliest country in the world for organized labor.
Supporters have argued that the agreement would level the playing field by requiring Colombia to lower or eliminate tariffs on U.S. imports, when many products from Colombia already get such preferences in the U.S. market.
Bush sought to add new urgency by proclaiming the issue also a matter of national security _ a point he made twice in just two minutes of remarks. He argued that the deal would help promote a "stable neighborhood" and send a signal of support to a democratic ally, while defeating it would "embolden the false populism."
"A lot of time people think about trade, it's just an economic issue. In this case, it is a national security issue, and one that the members of both parties must take seriously," the president said after meeting at the White House with a bipartisan group of former lawmakers and top government officials from several administrations. "If the trade bill with Colombia is defeated, it will harm the national security interests of the country."
Among the officials from former President Bill Clinton's Democratic administration who joined Bush were chief of staff Mack McLarty, former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. Veterans of previous Republican administrations, as well as retired members of Congress from both parties, also came. Some are now lobbyists for clients with business interests in Latin America, or were instrumental while in office to the 1993 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.


Updated : 2021-04-13 22:28 GMT+08:00