Obama, Colombian Leader to Meet on Free-Trade Accord

White House says negotiations with Colombia have resulted in labor rights plan.

President Barack Obama will meet April 7 with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos to remove the final obstacles to a bilateral free trade agreement, a senior U.S. official told AFP.

"President Obama and President Santos will meet in Washington tomorrow to approve an action plan related to labor issues that will clear the way for the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement to move forward," the official said April 6.

Signed in 2006 under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, the free-trade agreement must be ratified by both houses of Congress. Republicans control the House of Representatives and Democrats have the majority in the Senate.

Until now, ratification of the treaty has been blocked by Democrats, who have raised concerns about attacks targeting union organizers in Colombia, and pressed for greater protections for labor rights.

The White House said negotiations with Colombia have resulted in "an agreed 'Action Plan Related to Labor Rights' that will lead to greatly enhanced labor rights in Colombia and clear the way for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to move forward to Congress."

It said the agreement will expand US exports to Colombia by more than $1.1 billion, giving key U.S. goods and services duty free access in sectors ranging from manufacturing to agriculture.

"It will increase U.S. GDP by $2.5 billion and support thousands of additional U.S. jobs," it said in a statement.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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