CARTAGENA, Colombia — President Obama announced today that a free trade deal with Colombia will be fully enforced next month, declaring the agreement a win-win for both countries.
“We’re moving ahead with our landmark trade agreement,” Obama announced, standing alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Summit of the Americas.
The announcement, which was largely expected, comes after Colombia enacted a series of protections for workers and labor unions.
“Given the actions taken by President Santos and the Colombian legislature I can announce that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will enter into force next month on May 15,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Santos.
“This agreement is a win for both our countries,” Obama said. “It’s a win for the United States by increasing our exports by more than $1 billion, supporting thousands of U.S. jobs and helping to achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports. It’s a win for Colombia by giving you even greater access to the largest market for your exports: the United States of America.”
Obama also noted that “this agreement is a win for our workers and environment because of the strong protections it has for both, commitments that we are going to fulfill.”
The president spent the weekend at the summit touting economic growth in the region and highlighting his interest in Latin America in an election-year appeal to Latino voters back home.
U.S. unions, however, have opposed the trade pact, citing Colombia’s record of violence against labor leaders. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called the announcement today “deeply disappointing and troubling.”
“The politics of Obama’s action with this trade deal are totally inexplicable given this is not just another NAFTA, which polling shows most American despise, but one with the country that is globally notorious for murdering unionists and a deal that was passionately despised by the very union voters on whom Obama will rely to win key swing states and volunteer for the vaunted Obama campaign ground game,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global trade Watch, said in a written statement.
Amid the scandal surrounding the Secret Service, the trade deal announcement provided Obama with a fleeting opportunity to promote job growth back in the United States. Moments later, he was asked to respond to allegations that 11 secret service personnel and five military service members were involved in inappropriate conduct ahead of the president’s trip to Cartagena.