Kerry In Colombia

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It is no surprise that Secretary of State John Kerry chose Colombia—- together with Brazil-- for his first official visit to South America.

“The truth is Colombia and the United States agree on so many different parts of our agenda today, and we have built a very, very strong relationship on shared values and on common interests,” he said during a joint press conference with Colombia’s Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.

Over the years, the United States and Colombia have cooperated on trade and investment, creating jobs in both countries.

“Latin America’s remarkably dynamic markets with its large and increasing middle class of consumers are critical to growing our economy in the United States as well as to supporting quality jobs. This works for both of us. It’s good for Colombia, it’s good for the region, it’s good for the United States, and it’s good for the hemisphere.”

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which has been ratified into law in Colombia “will ensure that workers and companies in both countries have a level playing field on which to be able to compete for their customers,” Secretary Kerry said. “It’s no accident that trade with Colombia has gone up about 10 percent since passage [into law of the free-trade agreement].”

The Secretary also said that the United States supports Colombia in its peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Negotiations are aimed at ending a five-decades-long conflict that according to a report issued by the National Center of Historical Memory has witnessed the deaths of 220,000 people.

Since 2000, the United States has contributed $8.5 billion to help Colombia battle FARC guerrillas, drug trafficking, and help provide economic alternatives to disadvantaged communities.

“President Obama wants the people of [Colombia] to know that when you achieve that peace, the United States of America will do everything in our power to help respect it and to help you to be able to implement it,” said Secretary Kerry.

In addition, the Secretary reiterated the United States’ support for Colombia’s efforts to promote human rights, accountability, and the rule of law, including through the landmark victim’s law and the Labor Rights Action Plan.

“Colombia is a success story, and the United States of America is proud of whatever small part we’ve been able to be sharing with our friends in Colombia in an effort to get where we are, moving towards, hopefully, stability throughout the region.”