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Congress urged to OK Peru, Colombia FTAs

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Congress urged to OK Peru, Colombia FTAs

By Monte Hayes, Associated Press Writer

10 May 2007

LIMA, Peru — The U.S. State Department’s No. 2 official on Thursday expressed hope that free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru will be approved soon by the U.S. Congress.

On a tour of four Latin American countries, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte has joined a chorus of Bush administration officials publicly embracing the trade pacts that Congress has refused to ratify.

"We think it is very important that this agreement be approved," Negroponte told a news conference in the Peruvian capital, Lima.

In Peru for the day, Negroponte met privately with Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who traveled to Washington last month to lobby for the trade pact with U.S. lawmakers.

On Tuesday, Colombia’s vice president said his country might have to re-evaluate its close relationship with the United States if Congress fails to ratify a trade agreement.

Negroponte received a warmer welcome in Peru than in Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa said he would not renew a bilateral investment protection agreement with the U.S. that expires on Friday.

Correa has vowed not to sign a trade agreement with the U.S. but has urged Washington to extend a package of trade benefits tied to counter-drug cooperation.

Relations between Ecuador and the United States have cooled since January when Correa, a close ally of Washington foe Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, took office.

"I stressed to President Correa ... that we believe questions about Ecuador’s political or economic orientation are strictly matters for the people and government of Ecuador to decide, and we would respect those decisions," Negroponte said at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Lima.