The headline above — The collapse of Colombian-U.S. relations — comes from an article in Nova Colombia, detailing how an anti-trade contingent in Congress, aligned with organized labor, is using every political weapon to block the new, bilateral free trade agreement. Its failure could be devastating for democratic progress in Latin America.
On Friday, Investor’s Business Daily editorially explained the real crisis facing trade and democratic progress in Colombia and Latin America, “Congress Holds Colombia Hostage.” It’s a harsh editorial, one that does not adequately acknowledge the level of internal congressional debate on Colombia, but it does powerfully paint the stakes of a failed FTA.
The trade pact Colombia negotiated in good faith with the U.S. and which it needs to sustain its dramatic economic recovery from the ruins of a 44-year war must wait until Democrats arbitrarily decide they’re satisfied with the violence level. This gives every anti-free trade Colombian thug an incentive to keep killing.
And what do the Colombians think? Again, IBD:
Millions of Colombians instead issued a people’s cry last Thursday against the more serious enemy of their country’s well-being — the Marxist FARC narcoterrorists. They marched through the streets of Bogota, Medellin and Cali — calling for an end to the violence from the radical left. Led by Uribe himself, the first million-plus protest in Colombia in decades was triggered by the cold-blooded murder of 11 legislators by FARC, who held the elected leaders for five years before killing them.
The NAM supports free trade agreements as a means to expand export opportunities for manufacturers in the United States, and the US-Colombia FTA certainly meets that goal. Most U.S. exports to Colombia are industrial goods, and nearly 80 percent of Colombia’s tariffs on these goods will fall to zero when the FTA takes effect.
But we are cognizant of the broader foreign policy issues, as well. Destabilization of Colombia — the collapse of relations, as the headline calls it — will be a damaging blow to democracy in South America, empowering anti-American, anti-trade forces like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. The domestic political game being played here in the United States with the U.S.-Colombia FTA is extremely dangerous.
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