Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos yesterday hailed the U.S. Congress’ passage of a long-stalled free-trade agreement (FTA), saying the decision was “historic for relations between Colombia and the United States, a historic day for Colombia's insertion to the world and a historic day for Colombian businessmen and workers.”
Negotiations over the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement began in 2004 and were concluded in 2006 when former President George W. Bush and then-Colombian President Álvaro Uribe signed off on the pact. However, pushing the bill through the U.S. Congress—a top priority of the Obama administration—took nearly five years of legislative wrangling.
The final tally on the treaty was decisive: the House of Representatives passed the measure 262–167, followed by a 66–33 vote in the Senate. Two other FTAs—including the U.S. agreement with Panama—also passed which proponents say will boost U.S. exports by $13 billion and support tens of thousands of jobs. Opponents of the deal included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who voted against the measure over concerns about Colombian trade unionist rights and its possible impact on export-competing industries in the United States.