WASHINGTON – Colombian President Alvaro Uribe met with President Bush on Thursday to push for a free trade pact. But while Bush said he hoped the two nations could iron out a deal, he wouldn't predict how soon an agreement could be completed.
On his visit to Washington, Uribe is leading stalled talks for a free trade deal — a key plank in the Colombian leader's re-election campaign. The two nations have been negotiating an agreement for the past 23 months.
Bush said he told Uribe that the U.S. is interested in a trade agreement and would negotiate in good faith. "I assured him that our trade negotiators will be fair in our approach," Bush told reporters after the two leaders met in the Oval Office.
It was the second meeting between Bush and Uribe in the United States in six months. In August, Bush invited Uribe to his Texas ranch, and the two also met in November during a presidential summit in Argentina.
Pressed on whether there was going to be a free trade agreement with Colombia or not, Bush replied, "Espero que si," which means "I hope so." Pressed for a timeline, Bush said, "Vamos a ver," or "We'll see."
Colombia wants the United States to reduce subsidies for its farmers to make Colombian food products more competitive.
"All of us have come to this negotiation in good faith and I'm sure that we will see a conclusion," said Uribe, who also met on Thursday with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. "This meeting has been good for democracy and it has been good for the interests of our people, as well as for our shared war on terror and our war against the drugs that finance that terror."