On Trade and Colombia, Consequences

By April 8, 2008General

The arguments against the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement are thin, faulty, laughable. Which may be the point …

The Washington Post also examined the politics of the agreement editorially today, noting the firing of Mark Penn, a sacrifice to anti-trade voters.

This is a particular danger in the case of Colombia, since the arguments against the pact are so flimsy. Colombian exports already have access to the U.S. market, so this agreement would help U.S. exporters without harming domestic industry; and Colombia, with backing from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, has demonstrated remarkable success in quelling civil conflict and restoring order and human rights. Both Democratic candidates rest their opposition on supposed concern about assassination of trade unionists in Colombia, although such violence has fallen so much that the crime rate for them now is lower — as we’ve pointed out in past editorials — than for the population at large.

There are several tough columns on the campaign politics behind trade today, including a Wall Street Journal editorial, “The New Liberal Taboo,” John Fund at the Wall Street Journal — “Smoot-Chavez” — and Byron York at the National Review:

When I asked Will Marshall, a key figure in the centrist New Democrat movement and head of the Progressive Policy Institute, what was going on, he seemed genuinely dismayed. “There has been a kind of willing suspension of rationality when it comes to the trade debate,” Marshall told me. “Apparently, the rule is that in the primaries, facts and evidence don’t matter, so bashing trade becomes a way of validating the emotions of people who feel stressed by global competition, and the facts get trampled underfoot in the process.”

Flimsy arguments, trampled facts.

But perhaps it’s the very weakness of the arguments contra the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement that make it such an effective symbol of power for organized labor: “We demand you oppose the agreement even though the case against it is laughable. It’s either trade or us. Pick one.” A revealing demand, a revealing concession, and all those who value the benefits of trade and supporting U.S. allies are left hoping the candidates aren’t being serious.

Leave a Reply