After Korea Trade Agreement, Let’s Move on Colombia, Panama

By December 10, 2010Trade

In speaking to the President’s Export Council on Thursday, President Obama provided a solid review of his National Export Initiative, announced early this year with the goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years. The President said:

What we all agree on is that we’ve got to rebuild our economy on a new and stronger foundation for growth. And part of that means getting back to doing what America has always been known for doing -– what our workers and our businesses have always done best –- and that’s making great products and selling them around the world.

The modernizing of the U.S. system of export controls the President announced Thursday will certainly help achieve that goal.

President Obama also highlighted his Administration’s recent, notable accomplishment, completion of the renegotiated free trade agreement with South Korea.

Alas, the President failed to mention two other pending FTAs, both less controversial than Korea: Colombia and Panama. The NAM’s trade mavens have long believed the votes have been there in Congress to enact the two free trade pacts, which would lower tariffs on U.S. exports to those countries. Big Labor’s dead enders will reflexively oppose enactment, but with Korea, the Administration has (finally) shown itself willing to tell the unions no.

If the President wants to elevate the goal of U.S. companies making great products and selling them around the world, then he should make a public pronouncement: “I call on the new Congress to quickly enact the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.”

Editors at National Review Online muster good arguments for enactment of the two agreements, “One Down, Two to Go“:

  • Led by Pres. Ricardo Martinelli — a conservative, staunchly pro-American businessman — Panama is currently expanding its famous waterway, which handles roughly 15 percent of all U.S. trade. As Heritage Foundation scholar James Roberts observes, passing the FTA would greatly benefit those U.S. firms that are bidding for construction contracts related to the seven-year, $5.2 billion canal project. It would also demonstrate Washington’s strategic commitment to Central America, a region tormented by violent crime and the Chávez-like depredations of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, who recently sent troops to occupy a portion of Costa Rican territory during a border dispute.
  • One big factor behind the plunge in unionists’ murders is a government-run security initiative launched several years ago. The number of labor figures protected by this program has grown steadily. In other words, to oppose the FTA because of Bogotá’s “inaction” on union violence is absurd. If any country deserves to be rewarded for its progress against violence, it is Colombia, a vital U.S. partner that houses American military personnel and sits next door to Venezuela. By allowing the FTA to languish since 2006, Congress has already done significant damage to Washington’s credibility.

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