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Colombia not changing labor laws

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on April 7, 2011 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Both Presidents were expected to approve the recently agreed-upon Action Plan Related to Labor Rights and to discuss next steps with regard to the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, according the a White House news release. UPI/Alex Wong/Pool | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/0d7f7fb6ec13a47539fa7508ecb444d2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on April 7, 2011 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Both Presidents were expected to approve the recently agreed-upon Action Plan Related to Labor Rights and to discuss next steps with regard to the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, according the a White House news release. UPI/Alex Wong/Pool | License Photo

BOGOTA, April 11 (UPI) -- The Colombian president said he will not change the labor laws as part of a deal with the United States but will strengthen existing regulations.

President Juan Manuel Santos said new labor laws had been proposed by his government before striking the free trade agreement with the United States, El Espectador reported.

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Santos rejected criticism labor rights workers were particularly vulnerable to drug trafficking organizations in Colombia.

"The unionists aren't the only citizens affected by the bacrim [criminal organizations]. This is a problem that must be tackled to protect all Colombians. The public forces and authorities are already focused on this," Santos said.

Santos and U.S. President Barack Obama reached the agreement last week, giving Colombia until April 22 to comply with conditions set by the White House regarding workers and labor unions.

The Colombia's Ministry of Social Protection is required to take a number of steps, including hiring 480 new labor inspectors in four years.

The free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia has been postponed since November 2006. It eliminates tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods and services.

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