Watch CBSN Live

Perino, Podesta: No Colombia Quid Pro Quo [updated]

Responding to reports that President Bush hoped to trade passage of a Colombia free trade deal for a bailout for Detroit automakers, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said today that "the President did not suggest a quid pro quo."

She went on to say that "he did talk about the merits of free trade in hopes that the next administration will recognize that not only is that good for our businesses -- especially if you want to create jobs, one of the best ways to do that is to open up new markets for our businesses and our entrepreneurs." 

The Colombia deal is considered by many to be one of Bush's top priorities before he leaves office. "When it comes to Colombia -- in Colombia our goods go there and are taxed at a high rate, whereas the Colombian goods come into our country free of charge," said Perino. "We think that that's unfair, and sitting in front of Congress right now is the opportunity to change that. We also are pushing for free trade agreements with South Korea and Panama, and we think that by doing so, we would be able to help create a better job market and also bring in more money into our economy." 

A reporter followed by asking "just to make that even clearer, is it wrong to say that the President told President-elect Obama that he would consider loans to automakers if Congress passed the free trade agreement or took up the free trade agreement?" 

Perino: "As I said, there was no linkage between -- "

Reporter: "So this was an incorrect report?"

Perino: "Well, look, there's two anonymous aides -- or one anonymous aide who is apparently telling this story. I know from some reporters who told me that they were encouraged by others on the Obama team not to write that story because it was inaccurate. So, look, I'll let unidentified aides defend themselves, if you guys can find them. But I can tell you here, on the record, not afraid to say it, the President does support free trade; that's no secret. Everyone knows the President has talked about that a lot. He even spent time in his State of the Union address talking about the concerns he has about protectionism and isolationism, which could lead to a further weakening of our economy. That's what he's trying to work against. And when he has the leaders here this weekend, he's going to talk a lot about that."

UPDATE: Podesta agrees, relays Victoria McGrane. At a pen and pad briefing today, Obama transition chief John Podesta said that “there was no quid pro quo in the conversation.” The buzz this morning that Bush had made that offer was the result of “reports which were not accurate,” he said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue