Obama and Colombia Reach Labor Accord

The deal is seen as paving the way for the free trade agreement with the country to move through Congress.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Wednesday it had reached a key agreement on labor provisions with Colombia that will provide broader protections for labor leaders and union organizing, breaking an impasse that has held up a trade pact with the country for more than four years.

This story first appeared in the April 7, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The deal is expected to pave the way for the free trade agreement with Colombia to move through Congress, and to help advance a larger trade pact with South Korea and a smaller one with Panama that have languished for several years. President Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos are expected to sign the labor deal here today. In 2010, apparel and textile imports from Colombia totaled $291.8 million.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said, “We think the opportunity to reduce barriers to U.S. exports will create new opportunities for American business and thereby support better jobs for Americans.”

Michael Froman, White House deputy national security adviser for international economics, said the administration will discuss the timing for submitting the trade agreements with congressional leaders, as well as other elements of the trade agenda, including renewal of the expired Trade Adjustment Assistance worker aid program, the Andean Trade Preference Act and the Generalized System of Preferences, and approval of permanent normal trade relations with Russia as it seeks admission to the World Trade Organization.

“Upon its implementation, this trade agreement provides U.S. companies unfettered access to nearly 45 million new consumers,” said Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “In addition, the U.S. textile, apparel, and footwear industries, along with our workers and consumers, stand to benefit from improved and permanent two-way trade flows.”