September 26, 2007

Yes to free-trade with Colombia

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said opposition in the U.S. Congress to a free-trade agreement with Colombia is more of a threat to Latin America's democratic and economic progress than the region's ``dictators.'' Harper, who leads the Western hemisphere's second largest economy, said a rejection of the pact would set a bad example in a region that is still a ``work in progress,'' and hinted U.S. lawmakers are being too hard on the Colombian government's human rights record.

The U.S. Congress is in a standoff over the killings of labor leaders and other abuses by paramilitary groups linked to the government of President Alvaro Uribe, potentially setting the stage for the first-ever rejection of a trade agreement by Congress. President George W. Bush's administration has said rejection of the deal would send a message the U.S. has turned its back on the region. Colombia and the U.S. reached the accord 18 months ago, and it has languished in Congress ever since. Uribe's government says the pact would lead to a flood of foreign investment and provide farmers with a way to move out of illegal coca production.

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