White House ready to talk trade with Congress: Kirk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is ready to begin talks with the Congress on moving long-delayed free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Wednesday.

Kirk told reporters he believed a new action plan to deal with concerns about workers rights and anti-union violence in Colombia would set the stage for a “very strong vote” in Congress on a bilateral trade deal.

Kirk and White House international economic affairs adviser Michael Froman told reporters the exact timing of a vote on the Colombia pact and the two other deals would depend on consultations with Congress.

The White House also wants Congress to approve permanent normal trade relations with Russia, renew expired trade preference programs for developing countries and renew expired retraining benefits for workers who have lost their job because of foreign competition, the officials said.

On another issue, White House adviser on Latin America Dan Restrepo said the United States was still mulling the “appropriate response” to Ecuador’s demand on Tuesday that the U.S. ambassador leave the country.

Ecuador took that step over U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks alleging police corruption. Ecuador has been a beneficiary of U.S. trade preference programs.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler)

White House ready to talk trade with Congress: Kirk