From Bob Novak’s weekend column.
WASHINGTON — Nancy Pelosi staved off the biggest intraparty challenge during her brief tenure as speaker of the House Monday, standing her ground in support of two free-trade treaties during an uproarious meeting of the House Democratic Caucus behind closed doors.
Pelosi backed deals on Peru and Panama treaties negotiated by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel despite fierce protests by rank-and-file Democrats. The caucus was to consider Iraq, immigration and the trade treaties, but the debate over trade was so extended that it took up all the time.
A footnote: There is no agreement on key Korean and Colombian trade treaties coming up later this year.
NAM President John Engler participated in a conference call with small- and medium-sized manufacturers on Tuesday, May 22, and had this to say about the trade framework Novak is writing about:
Charlie Rangel did a lot of heavy lifting on this, but so did the Administration and Congressman McCreary. It means now that Peru, and Panama and I imagine the Colombia Free Trade Agreements should be in pretty good position. Those are cases where in all cases we get the win because our country is open to products and goods coming, but their tariffs will come down.
Oh yeah? Give us just one example of trade agreements helping the U.S. economy.
Again, Engler from the conference call:
We saw with CAFTA, which was very controversial a year ago, only passed by a couple of votes in the Congress. We’ve already seen a substantial improvement just in the four Caribbean nations, happen to be pretty small in size, we’ve gone from a trade deficit of a billion dollars to a trade surplus. So U.S. companies have been able to open up some markets, they’ve increased their sales, and it’s because they have basically a more favorable environment.
That’s right. As Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez noted recently, U.S. exports in 2006 to the four countries that had implemented CAFTA — El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — jumped 18.1 percent in 2006 over the previous year, turning a $1 billion deficit to a $1.2 billion surplus.
A $2 billion-plus turnaround in a single year, powerful evidence on behalf of free trade agreements. By working toward the framework allowing Congress to enact more such agreements, Speaker Pelosi sided with jobs and economic growth — resisting the stagnation that comes from protectionism.
P.S. The USTR has a factsheet on the trade-agreement framework worked out between Congress and the Administration. It’s a .pdf file available here.
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