Baucus to Colombia next week to try to jump-start free trade agreement

The Senate Finance Committee chairman is spending the weeklong recess in Brazil and Colombia, where he'll bring attention to a long-stalled trade pact.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced in a statement that he's taking several farmers and business leaders from his home state along to meet with government and business officials in the two countries.

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While stressing that the visit should promote Montana jobs and business opportunities, the chairman made note of the imminent need for and importance of the Colombia trade pact in his statement.

"The delay in ratifying our Colombia trade agreement has cost our ranchers, farmers and small businesses enough already," Baucus said. "We are losing business to competitors from countries like Argentina that have negotiated their own trade agreements with the fast-growing Colombian market, and the impending Canadian trade agreement threatens to cut Montana wheat producers entirely out of the market.

"It's time to quickly resolve any outstanding issues and send these agreements to Congress as soon as possible so Montana producers can sell their goods and services in Colombia and create jobs here at home," he said.

The Finance Committee has sole jurisdiction over international trade. Baucus intends to discuss the pending trade agreement with Colombian officials.

Some in Congress have criticized the agreement, which was signed in 2006 but President Obama has not yet submitted for approval, in part because of controversy over Colombia's relationship with organized labor.

In Brazil, Baucus plans to meet with government officials to strengthen trade with the world's eighth largest economy.