After Traveling to Colombia, Free-Trade Sentiment

By March 5, 2008Trade

A Congressional Democrat, saying let’s help Colombia with trade. From the Salt Lake Tribune, “Trip sways Matheson about free trade.

WASHINGTON – Fresh off a tour of Colombia, Rep. Jim Matheson says a free trade agreement with that South American country could boost its strength as a U.S. ally, a point President Bush also stressed Tuesday.

Matheson, a Utah Democrat, spent three days in Colombia this weekend with several other members of Congress, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez. They met with President Alvaro Uribe and toured parts of the nation that Matheson says even police would not dare to visit just a few years ago.

“There’s just been a real transformation in this country,” Matheson says. “This is a country that has made tremendous strides to provide security for its population . . . [however], they’re clearly very open about all the challenges they face.”

Secretary Gutierrez has done yeoman’s work in accompanying bipartisan congressional delegations to Colombia over the past. The Department of Commerce has materials on the most recent visit, the fourth such delegation, here.

The saber-rattling from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his Ecuadorian ally against Colombia reinforces the high stakes at play in Latin America. Austin Bay’s smart column sees Chavez’s aggressiveness as a response to Colombia’s President Uribe success in war against narcoterrorism. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

The sides are pretty clear, here. The United States should support an ally, thwart a foe AND expand opportunities for U.S exports by enacting the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

UPDATE (11:38 a.m.): Saber-rattling is too much of a metaphor. Chavez has moved troops and tanks to the border with Colombia.

UPDATE (4:09 a.m.): From The National Review:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s courage in taking a perilous stand against terrorists is a persuasive indication that he is precisely the breed of ally we need in the region. Uribe deserves our support, and a trade accord would bolster his administration while benefiting both our nations’ economies.

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