Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 17:34 UK

Bush angered over Colombian deal

George W. Bush
President Bush is worried the agreement may be slipping away

A proposed free trade agreement between the US and Colombia will be "dead" unless Congress considers it soon, President George W. Bush has warned.

He urged the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to table an imminent vote on the deal.

The House scrapped a clause requiring a vote within 60 days, making it unlikely to happen before November's elections.

The White House argues a deal has real security and economic benefits for the US but many Democrats are sceptical.

'Damaging'

They believe not enough is being done to support US workers whose jobs could be threatened by the agreement and are concerned about the level of violence against trade union members in Colombia.

Having presented the bill to Congress last week, President Bush said the delay in its passage was "damaging" to US interests.

It is not in our country's interests that we stiff an ally like Colombia
President George W. Bush

He has long argued the deal will boost opportunities for US businesses by removing export barriers as well as strengthening US relations with a notable regional ally.

"That bill is dead unless the Speaker schedules a definite vote," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

"It is not in our country's interests that we stiff an ally like Colombia and that we do not encourage our goods and services to be sold overseas."

Political pressure

Ms Pelosi has criticised the administration for presenting the bill before key sticking points have been addressed, including how to curb attacks on organized labour in Colombia.

The bill's future depends on the White House's willingness to engage constructively with its critics, she has argued.

The proposed treaty is one of a number of important free trade agreements - including accords with South Korea and Panama - which will be left in limbo if not approved before November's Congressional and Presidential elections.

Democratic Presidential contenders Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama are both opposed to the Colombian agreement in its proposed form and have attacked it publicly in recent weeks.

The issue of free trade pacts is high up the political agenda ahead of Pennsylvania's crucial Democratic primary contest later this month.




SEE ALSO
Clinton's chief strategist quits
07 Apr 08 |  Americas
House delays Colombia trade deal
11 Apr 08 |  Americas

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