WaPo Sees a Path to OK Colombia Trade Deal

By March 31, 2008Trade

The Washington Post’s Opinion Page today offers more of its solid argumentation in support of passing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. From “Free Colombia“:

The agreement is being held hostage by members of the House (and Senate) who argue that Colombia — despite a dramatic drop in its overall murder toll under the leadership of President Alvaro Uribe — hasn’t done enough to protect trade union activists or to punish past murders of labor leaders. It’s a spurious complaint: Actually, in 2006, union members were slightly less likely than the average Colombian to be murdered. But the human rights issue has served as cover for many Democrats whose true objections are to free trade itself.

Once the agreement arrives on the Hill, Congress will have 90 legislative days to vote yes or no — no amendments and no filibusters allowed, because special “fast track” rules apply. The Bush administration is betting that enough Democrats would support the pact to ensure its passage in the House, if it ever comes up for a vote. Of course, Ms. Pelosi could make an issue of the president’s failure to get her approval to submit the pact and then could have her caucus shoot down the deal. But she could also engage the White House in serious negotiations. The president has signaled a willingness to consider reauthorizing aid for workers displaced by trade, legislation that is dear to the Democrats’ labor constituency and that he has heretofore resisted.

Ms. Pelosi recently said that no Colombia deal could pass without trade adjustment assistance — without also mentioning the bogus trade unionists issue. Perhaps she is realizing that talking to Mr. Bush about swapping a Colombia vote for trade adjustment assistance might actually lead to a tangible accomplishment. At least we have to hope so.

Before leaving for Ukraine this morning, President Bush briefly spoke from the South Lawn, urging Congress to act on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The Post’s scenario appears to one way to achieve that goal to the satisfaction of both House leadership and the White House.

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