The U.S. took a step toward implementing the free trade agreement with Colombia on Wednesday.

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis met with Colombia Minister of Labor Rafael Pardo to discuss the South American nation’s recent progress in protecting workers’ rights and to address the challenges that remain. She highlighted the ongoing technical cooperation between the U.S. Department of Labor and Colombia’s Labor Ministry and revealed the award of a $2 million grant to the International Labor Organization to develop a robust presence in Colombia.

“Minister Pardo and his leadership team share our commitment to worker rights, and strong and effective labor law enforcement,” Solis said. “The grant from the U.S. Department of Labor…is but one effort to help ensure that Colombia has all the tools it needs to carry out this commitment.”

The ILO presence will support the implementation of the “Colombia Action Plan Related to Labor Rights” through a variety of direct assistance activities. In April 2011, the plan was concluded between Colombia and the U.S. as a requirement for implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement, according to the U.S. Trade Representative. The bilateral trade pact was approved by Congress and signed by President Obama last year. Under the action plan, Colombia committed to a series of measures to improve protection of labor rights, prevent labor violence and increase prosecution of the perpetrators of such violence, which was a sticking point for its passage.

To date, Colombia has met each milestone in the action plan, the DOL said, although Solis acknowledged that much work remains to achieve the full potential of the plan for Colombia’s workers and reaffirmed her full commitment to work with Colombian labor officials to overcome challenges.

The bilateral pact is projected to expand U.S. goods exports by more than $1.1 billion and give key U.S. goods and services duty free access in sectors from manufacturing to agriculture, according to USTR.

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