Who Lost Colombia? It’s Still Too Early to Ask That Question…We Hope

By November 29, 2010General, Trade

Noted journalist, author and Latin America hand Andres Oppenheimer writes a worrisome but justified column in The Miami Herald, “Colombia takes a step back from U.S.“:

Colombia’s right-of-center President Juan Manuel Santos may have been kidding when he recently said that radical leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is his “new best friend,” but few in Washington are laughing.

There is a growing feeling in the U.S. capital — especially in Congress — that Santos is moving closer to Chávez, and shifting away from Colombia’s close alliance with the United States over the past eight years.

Oppenheimer quotes Enrique Santos Calderon, the president’s brother and a long-time El Tiempo columnist, who says Colombians are disillusioned with the United States, adding, “There is a feeling that we need to take some distance, and stop making unilateral favors that are not reciprocated.”

At The Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady takes the Obama Administration to task for its inaction on the long-pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in a column, “Obama’s Trade Contortions.” In effect, the Administration has given Big Labor a veto over trade agreements, while embracing a neo-mercantalism that embraces exports but not trade. Neverthless, O’Grady writes:

It still can’t justify its position on Colombia, the third largest market for agricultural imports in Latin America. American farmers now pay an average 16.5% tariff on exports to Colombia. As a result, according to Colombia’s ministry of trade, “countries like Argentina [which is part of an FTA] are rapidly displacing U.S. producers. In 2008 American farmers had 46% of the Colombian market; today that share has diminished to 22%.”

Next year, Ottawa’s Colombia free trade agreement will enter into force, and Canadian producers will join the list of competitors who have an advantage over Americans in the Colombian market. The European Union and South Korea have also signed FTAs with Colombia and will have advantages on the industrial production front.

It’s hard to understand what Mr. Obama is thinking about besides his loyalty to the AFL-CIO. But Colombia’s plans are clear. It wants to trade with the U.S. But if it is rejected, it will simply buy and sell with the rest of the world.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • jj says:

    The only thing standing in the way of free trade between the US and Colombia is tariffs imposed by Colombia on American products. The last time we made a trade deal with them we agreed to remove tariffs without requiring them to do the same for us. Why should we agree to give them anything additional to remove their remaining tariffs?

    The current sad state of the US economy was achieved with more free trade deals like those pending with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea in place than ever before. Our tariffs have never been lower. If free trade is the road to prosperity then how did we ever get into this mess in the first place?

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