This morning Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) had a Wall Street Journal op-ed again criticizing the benefits of NAFTA and the Colombian FTA. The NAM certainly agrees with Senator Brown that we need to “protect our national interests and our communities” and that’s exactly what the Colombian agreement does. The Senator highlights the trade deficit as evidence of free trade’s failures, but omits the important fact that in markets where we have established free trade agreements, our trade balance for manufactured goods continues to improve.
Senator Brown continues to blur the issue of the merits of the Colombian agreement by injecting commentary on our trade relationship with China. The Senator goes on to list many of our trade partners: “Nafta. The Central American Free Trade Agreement. China. Now Colombia.” Could it be that the Senator isn’t aware that we don’t have a trade agreement with China? (No, certainly not.) So often we see skeptics of free trade attempt to muddy the discussion of the benefit of free trade with discussing China. Don’t get us wrong: China should be part of the trade discussion, but not in the way that the Senator asserts, and not as a rhetorical distraction to places where we can make real progress. The delays on Congressional action on the U.S.-Colombia FTA continue to burden manufacturers with a “tax” of $3.5 million every day in unnecessary Colombian tariffs. By delaying this agreement, we continue to lose our market share in the Colombian economy. Although our exports with Colombia are steadily increasing our share of the Colombian market has decreased 4.6 percent last year.
The Senator is right when he says we that we need to “focus on the merits of the [Colombian] agreement.” With full implementation of the agreement our economy stands to increase by $2.5 billion. That’s a good number to focus on.