Ambassador Susan Schwab talks to James Pethokoukis of U.S. News on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Why is the Colombian agreement such a big deal for the White House? If Colombia were a state, given the size of its economy, it would just be Iowa. Take a look at Caterpillar. If you talk to Jim Owens, the CEO of Caterpillar, he will tell you that the Peru and Colombia markets combined are bigger for Caterpillar than either the Japanese market or the German market or the U.K. market. And why is that? You’ve got a lot of extractive industries in that region. But that’s real money, and that’s U.S. jobs.
If the agreement levels the playing field between the two nations, why is there so much criticism of it? Good question. Certainly not because of the substance. It was probably best expressed by [House Ways and Means Committee] Chairman [Charles] Rangel, who said, “It’s not the substance on the ground—it’s the politics in the air.” Anyone who has looked at this agreement knows that by any definition it is in the U.S. national interest. It is in our economic and commercial interest. It is in our national security interest. It is in our geopolitical interest. It is a win-win for both the U.S. and Colombia. I mean, there is no rational explanation for any member of Congress to vote “No.” This agreement is virtually identical to the Peru agreement, which was approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.
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