- The Washington Times - Monday, April 14, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said today that the Colombian free trade deal is “dead” unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi schedules a vote.

After a meeting with his Cabinet, Bush said it’s not in America’s interest to “stiff an ally” like Colombia.

Bush sent the agreement to Capitol Hill earlier this month, but the House, led by Democrats, decided to eliminate a rule forcing a vote on the deal within 60 legislative days. The House’s decision probably kills consideration of the Colombia agreement this year, leaving it for the next administration.

“This free trade agreement is in our national interests,” Bush said. “Yet that bill is dead unless the speaker schedules a definite vote. This was an unprecedented move. It’s not in our country’s interests that we stiff an ally like Colombia and that we don’t encourage our goods and services to be sold overseas.”

Pelosi, D-Calif., who initiated the rules change, blames Bush for submitting the agreement before a consensus was reached with congressional leaders on outstanding differences. She has said that whether the agreement is dead for the year depends on the good faith of negotiations between Democrats and the White House.

She has said the Congress needs more time to evaluate the American people’s concerns about the U.S. economy and how the trade pact would affect it.

The U.S. and Colombia signed the deal in November 2006. Colombia’s congress approved the agreement last year.

In explaining their opposition, Democrats have cited the continued violence against organized labor in Colombia and differences with the administration over how to extend a program that helps U.S. workers displaced by foreign competition.

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