For Trade Talks, Dial 57: Obama, Colombia's Uribe and the Future of the Free Trade Agreement
By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
The phones have been busy at the Obama transition offices, and country code 57 — for Colombia — was on the receiving end of at least a couple of this week’s calls.
The number was dialed on behalf of both President-elect Barack Obama (yesterday) and Vice President-elect Joe Biden (Monday) to talk to Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, by far the staunchest American ally in Latin America under President George W. Bush.
Obama also called Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — they talked about Argentinean writers Borges and Cortázar — and her Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet, who invited him to visit Chile.
But Uribe has a much more serious matter to discuss with the U.S. administration, both the current and the incoming ones: the approval of a Free Trade Agreement that Colombians hope can take place in the lame-duck Congressional session.
Colombian media reported that Obama and Uribe talked for ten minutes. “The topics of conversation were not revealed, but it was a constructive dialogue,” a source told the leading newsweekly La Semana.
“The call from the Democrat Obama,” said El Tiempo, Colombia’s biggest newspaper, “is significant because this week, and until next Wednesday the U.S. Congress, under a Democratic majority, is in an extra session and the FTA is expected to be dealt with.”
The Colombian FTA has become a priority for the outgoing Bush administration — to the point that President Bush and Obama talked about it at their first meeting after the Nov. 4 election.