Cablegate: President Uribe Commits Publicly to Signing Fta As

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but Unclassifed - please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) During a speech at the Annual National Exporters,
Association Conference on September 27, President Uribe
stated that he was willing to pay the necessary political
cost to quickly conclude the FTA negotiations (translation of
remarks below.) Uribe underscored that his support for the
FTA was not an ideological issue, but one of market access.
He also stated that he would not play politics with the FTA
as he believed its passage was a matter of national interest.
This is the strongest public statement from the President
regarding the FTA and the private sector sees this as a clear
sign that the GOC has made the political decision to conclude
the negotiations. The statements were also meant to counter
the bad press generated by last week,s public spat between
Trade Minister Botero and Social Protection Minister Palacio
over the public resignation of IP negotiators from Palacio,s
ministry (septel).

2. (U) Informal translation of President Uribe,s comments at
the National Exporters, Association Conference in Medellin
on September 27, 2005:

The country needs the FTA, this is not a question of
ideology. I have never considered electoral politics above
the public good.

Therefore, whatever happens in my public life, I will make
every effort to sign the FTA as soon as possible because I am
convinced it is necessity for the country.

Surely it will rain lightning and thunder from some sectors,
but I have lived accustomed to running all the risks that I
have to run for the public interest. Let the world come
tumbling down, but we will sign this (the FTA) and apply it
quickly if we can make the small adjustments we are
requesting, especially in the agriculture sector. I do not
want people to say on December 31st of next year that Uribe
was not capable of signing an FTA; the system of unilateral
trade preferences has ended and we the U.S. market is closed
to us.

Now, this is not a question of ideology, it is a question of
market access.

I was speaking to a fellow President and I told him: no, this
is not liberalism or social democracy; this is about gaining
new markets to generate employment which in turn will
increase tax revenues allowing us to make social policy.

It is very different to try to sell flowers, clothing, shoes,
textiles emeralds and jewels than to go out and sell oil. To
sell oil you do not need free trade agreements; to sell
clothing you need all the free trade agreements in the world.

Therefore, I invite our negotiators, and the negotiators of
the U.S., Ecuador and Peru to make this effort quickly. My
will, as President of Colombia, is to sign the FTA as soon as
possible for the public good.

I trust that the content of the FTA will allow us to build a
strong consensus around it which we will need in the face of
the statements of its critics. It is highly probable that
even if we initial the FTA in the next few weeks it will not
be ratified by this current Congress and will become a topic
of considerable controversy in the majority of the Congress.
We will need to win this majority next year to make it easier
to ratify the FTA. This is a political dimension of
transcendental importance.

And we have challenges with Central America. Many of you are
worried that Central America will begin to buy from the U.S.
without tariffs, while what they buy from us will face
current tariffs. The

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