Entries in Summit of the Americas (3)


Obama Says US-Colombia Free Trade Deal a Win-Win

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(CARTAGENA, Colombia) -- President Obama announced on Sunday that a free trade deal with Colombia will be fully enforced next month, declaring the agreement a win-win for both countries.

“We’re moving ahead with our landmark trade agreement,” Obama announced, standing alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Summit of the Americas.

The announcement, which was largely expected, comes after Colombia enacted a series of protections for workers and labor unions.

“Given the actions taken by President Santos and the Colombian legislature I can announce that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will enter into force next month on May 15,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Santos.

“This agreement is a win for both our countries,” Obama said.  “It’s a win for the United States by increasing our exports by more than $1 billion, supporting thousands of U.S. jobs and helping to achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports.  It’s a win for Colombia by giving you even greater access to the largest market for your exports: the United States of America.”

Obama also noted that “this agreement is a win for our workers and environment because of the strong protections it has for both, commitments that we are going to fulfill.”

The president spent the weekend at the summit touting economic growth in the region and highlighting his interest in Latin America in an election-year appeal to Latino voters back home.

U.S. unions, however, have opposed the trade pact, citing Colombia’s record of violence against labor leaders.  AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called the announcement on Sunday “deeply disappointing and troubling.”

“The politics of Obama’s action with this trade deal are totally inexplicable given this is not just another NAFTA, which polling shows most American despise, but one with the country that is globally notorious for murdering unionists and a deal that was passionately despised by the very union voters on whom Obama will rely to win key swing states and volunteer for the vaunted Obama campaign ground game,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global trade Watch, said in a written statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama at Americas Summit: Open to Debate Drug Laws But Legalization Not the Answer

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images(CARTAGENA, Colombia) -- President Obama said at the Summit of the Americas on Saturday that he is open to a debate about current drug laws but that legalization is not the answer, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos asked the 33 leaders at the summit to consider whether legalization, including the regulation of marijuana and possibly cocaine, could be a solution to combat drug trafficking and drug-related violence, the paper says.

Other member states are also calling for the same dialogue.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Colombian President: Obama Visit ‘Smart Move’ to Sway Hispanic Vote

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(CARTAGENA, Colombia) -- Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos tells ABC News he believes President Obama’s visit to Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas is a “smart move” to help him win support with Hispanic voters in the U.S.

“I certainly think this will help him, because the fact that he is here, what he is going to say, what we, with Colombia, are going to decide on the free trade agreement and other issues, this will definitely help him with the Hispanic vote in the U.S.,” Santos said Friday. “I think it’s a smart move on his part to come at this moment.”

Obama is expected to push economic issues at the election-year summit, emphasizing trade and commercial ties to Colombia, Panama and other countries that could help boost job growth back at home. The summit also gives the president a chance to convince millions of Hispanic voters in the U.S. that he still cares about the region, amid criticism that he has neglected relations with Latin America.

With the White House’s foreign policy focus largely in the Middle East, it’s no surprise Santos worries the Obama administration isn’t paying enough attention to South America’s economic potential.

“For some time we’ve been saying that the U.S. should look much more to the countries south of the Rio Grande because here is where your real strategic interests lie. They are not in Afghanistan, they are not in Pakistan, they are here. Here the potential for U.S. businessmen, for trade, for every vital interest in the U.S.,” he said.

Other leaders are expected to pressure Obama during the weekend summit to rethink the war on drugs, but the president is not likely to engage while facing re-election.

“We feel like we’re pedaling on a static bicycle,” Santos said of the fight to curb the illegal drug trade, but questioned, “Is there a better alternative that is more effective and less costly?”

Leaders from 33 countries will come together at the summit to discuss a range of issues vital to the region. One country notably absent, however, is Cuba. While some think Castro should be invited to join the dialogue, Santos said he understands why the U.S. is hesitant to embrace the idea.

“If I were the White House, quite frankly, I would not include Cuba because this is a very sensitive political issue in the U.S.,” he said. “I hope the U.S. ... hears the voice Latin America, an increasing voice. There are better ways than sanctions and blockades to press Cuba for more freedom and more democracy. Why don’t we invite them and, being a member of the community, we can maybe be more effective?”

Finally, Santos publicly dissed the leader of the free world, saying he has no faith in President Obama’s soccer skills. “I don’t think President Obama is a very good soccer player. ... I believe more in his basketball skills.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio