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Colombia: Trade Smackdown

April 10, 2008 |  1:06 pm

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has delayed a vote on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, most certainly until after the November presidential elections.

The move is a blow to President Bush, who had made winning approval of the controversial trade pact before he leaves office a top priority. As Times correspondant James Gerstenzang noted in a story today, Bush gambled by using his "fast-track" trade promotion authority to push legislators to vote on the deal before they adjourn this fall, even though passage was far from assured.

Supporters say the agreement is a good for American exporters. And they say it's needed to show support for Colombia, which has been a stalwart U.S. ally in South America, where rising populism is eroding American influence.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) had a different view. Labor groups say the deal doesn't do enough to protect Colombian workers and union members. Both Democratic presidential candidates oppose it. In no mood to put them in a tough spot, or to cooperate with Bush in an election year, she came up with a plan to delay the voting.

That has the Bush administration fuming.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab released a sharply worded statement today calling the House maneuver  a "reckless" decision that undermines U.S. credibility.

----filed by Marla Dickerson in Mexico City

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