Zoellick to Visit Colombia, Meet with President Uribe on August 8
WASHINGTON - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick will travel to Colombia to meet with President Alvaro Uribe on August 8 to consider ways in which the United States and Colombia can deepen their bilateral trade ties. Colombia has expressed interest in negotiating a possible Free Trade Area (FTA) with the United States, and Zoellick will discuss with President Uribe and also with members of the business community and the Colombian legislature, the challenges and opportunities involved in negotiating a comprehensive FTA with the United States.
"After his recent meeting with President Uribe, President Bush asked me to go to Colombia to hear directly from Colombians their views on how to expand our bilateral trade relationship. I was honored to attend President Uribe's inauguration last August, and I look forward to meeting with him, with Colombian legislators and with members of the business community to review our current bilateral trade relationship and to discuss how we can build upon that," said Zoellick. "Colombia has indicated an interest in an FTA with the U.S., and so the purpose of my visit is to clearly lay out the scope and depth of such a possible negotiation, what it would involve, and to listen and learn from Colombians about their goals and expectations."
"My meetings in Colombia will provide the basis for both countries to make an assessment in the future about whether to begin FTA negotiations," Zoellick said. He noted that the recently concluded US-Chile FTA can provide a useful starting point for discussions, and that consultations with Colombia will continue, with meetings this fall within our bilateral Trade and Investment Council.
The United States has been working to help Colombia use trade to promote economic growth, opportunity and development. In the Trade Act of 2002, the Andean Trade Preference Act was renewed and expanded, with the result that Colombia is now experiencing a dramatic increase in exports to the United States. The Colombian Government estimates that the expanded benefits will generate about 200,000 new jobs in Colombia, in addition to the 150,000 jobs created over the last decade by the original program.
The Trade Act of 2002 also provided the President with Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA establishes a detailed process in which the Administration must notify and consult with Congress before and during trade negotiations. After the Administration notifies Congress, it must consult with Congress and wait a minimum of 90 days period before negotiations can begin. Once completed, Congress votes on the trade agreements submitted under TPA, but once the legislation is submitted, it must act within a limited period of time and cannot amend the legislation implementing the agreements.
Colombia is the United States 30th largest trade partner with $9.2 billion in two way goods trade in 2002. Colombia was the United States 29th largest market for exports ($3.6 billion) and 32nd largest supplier of imports ($5.6 billion) in that year. Machinery, chemicals, cereals and aircraft were the largest U.S. exports to Colombia, while petroleum, coffee, cut flowers and woven apparel were the largest U.S. import categories from Colombia.
Zoellick's trip follows up on a meeting between President Bush and President Uribe in Washington on April 30, 2003, in which President Bush indicated that USTR Zoellick would soon visit Colombia to discuss trade issues.