Harper Stands by Colombia

Published: Wednesday, 07/18/2007 12:00 am EDT

Responding in Bogot√° to concerns raised by human rights groups over Canada's interest in free trade with Colombia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday said closer bilateral trade ties will help the Latin American nation become more democratic. "We're not going to say, 'Fix all your social and political and human rights problems and only then will we engage in trade relations," Mr. Harper told reporters during a conference with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. "Colombia is a country that has made tremendous progress on shared values. We want to encourage them on those efforts." Critics say now is not the time for Canada to pursue a trade deal with the country, where civil war rages, human rights violations are rampant and government officials have been linked to paramilitary death squads.

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