Former Democratic Officials Back Colombia FTA

By April 18, 2008Trade

In meeting with trade reporters yesterday, NAM President John Engler mentioned the letter from former Democratic members of Congess and Democratic Administration officials who supported enactment of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

You can download a copy here as a .pdf file. It signers include many leading Democrats with foreign policy expertise, so its first argument for the argument addresses the agreement’s importance in international relations.

There is an overwhelming national security imperative to approving the Colombia FTA. There is a growing animus in some parts of the hemisphere toward the U.S., but Colombia has long been a traditional friend, and Colombian President Uribe has been a strong and faithful ally of the United States. To turn our back on the Colombia FTA would be a severe blow to that relationship and would send a very negative message to our friends in a volatile region. It is no
coincidence that the leaders of Mexico, Chile, Canada, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Peru among others, have strongly supported this treaty in the name of hemispheric solidarity. Failure to act would strengthen those in the region who would argue that we leave our friends isolated and that the U.S. is disinterested in the hemisphere. Since U.S. assistance for Plan Colombia was approved in the Clinton Administration, more than $5 billion has been provided with bipartisan support that has helped Colombia to strengthen democracy, counter narco-traffickers, and greatly reduce levels of violence. The Colombia FTA must be seen as part of this commitment.

And the economic arguments are compelling, too.

Today Colombia has double-digit tariffs on paper and paper products, transportation equipment, building products and consumer goods. U.S. agricultural exports of over $1 billion all face a duty there (for example, 15 percent Colombia tariffs on U.S. apples and oranges), while 99.9 percent of Colombia’s agricultural exports to the United States were duty-free. The FTA will immediately eliminate tariffs on more than 80 percent of American exports of industrial and consumer goods, and over time, 100 percent, including information technology products, agricultural products, construction equipment, medical equipment, and electrical power generation equipment.

The agreement is good for U.S. foreign policy as a demonstration of support for an ally, good for the economy through its opening of markets for U.S. exports, and good for the U.S. manufacturing and agricultural sectors, i.e., jobs creators. Opposing the agreement means opposing all those good things.

And preventing a vote on the agreement is an attempt to evade accountability, a dodge. How’s that tactic working so far?

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