, WASHINGTON, Jan 7 – Senior US Senator John McCain will travel to Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Panama and Mexico to promote expanding free trade and security cooperation in the Americas, his office said Thursday.
McCain and fellow Republican Senator John Barrasso will start their week-long trip on Friday, aiming "to engage with critical US allies and emerging partners in Latin America," according to a statement released by McCain\’s office.
They will renew their call for the Congress to approve stalled free trade pacts with Colombia and Panama at a time when President Barack Obama has highlighted ties between growing US exports and job-creation.
Their trip will also look at how "Colombia, Brazil and Mexico are each leading their own fight against criminal gangs and drug traffickers, the success of which the United States fully supports and has an enormous stake."
And they will seek to "deepen" US-Brazil ties during stops in Rio and Brasilia, as well as highlight the South American giant\’s "extraordinary efforts" to reduce poverty and crime.
McCain, who represents the southwestern state of Arizona and lost to Obama in the 2008 White House race, has traveled extensively overseas as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Barrasso, a doctor by training who represents Wyoming, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"The United States has a vital national interest in sustaining the success and security of democracy, open markets, free trade and regional integration in the Western Hemisphere," the statement said.
"The senators will meet with heads of state, legislators, key ministers, military officials and members of civil society."