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President Bush Welcomes Colombian President Uribe to White House

U.S. Department of State, November 14, 2006

Leaders discuss trade, counternarcotics cooperation and regional issues

Washington -- President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe discussed the United States’ free-trade agreement with Colombia, regional relations and enhancing drug eradication efforts in Colombia in a June 14 Oval Office meeting.

In his first meeting with Uribe since the Colombian president’s May 28 re-election, Bush offered his congratulations to the leader he referred to as a “personal friend” for his “grand victory.” (See related article.)

Bush said the two leaders discussed the bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) Colombia and the United States completed negotiating in February. Although Bush acknowledged that there were some loose ends to tie up, he said both leaders were committed to the completion of the FTA. (See related article.)

“We've still got some details to work out, but we committed ourselves to working out those details and try to get this done as quickly as we can,” Bush said.  “I will submit the agreement to Congress once it gets done, and I would hope members of both political parties understand the importance of a free-trade agreement with this vital ally of ours.”

Apart from bilateral trade issues, Bush and Uribe discussed regional relations.

“We talked about the neighborhood,” Bush remarked. “I appreciate strategizing with the president about how to make sure our neighborhood is a peaceful and hopeful place.”

Bush pledged to explain better to the people of Latin America U.S. interest in meeting this challenge, as well as promoting justice, education and health in the region.

“We spend about $1.6 billion a year in Central and South America,” Bush said.  “I want the people to understand that money is meant to help them, to help improve their lives … I want the people to understand America is a considerate country, that we care about justice.”

In his remarks following their meeting, Uribe thanked Bush, the U.S. Congress and the American people for their support as Colombia confronts challenges including terrorism.  The Colombian leader said that U.S. cooperation is necessary in dealing with the terrorist threat, as well as in improving efforts to eradicate illicit drugs.

In the last two years, Uribe said, drug eradication did not bring the expected results.  “One point we have studied this morning with President Bush is how to speed up the eradication of drugs because we need to show better results in this area,” said the Colombian president.

After his meeting with Bush, Uribe was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and members of the congressional Drug Task Force.

For more information on U.S. policy, see Colombia.

A transcript of the remarks by the two presidents is available on the White House Web site.