World Not Waiting for U.S. on Trade Agreements

It is no secret other countries are racing ahead with trade agreements while the U.S. stands idly by. There are 120 free trade agreements being negotiated around the world, and the U.S. is a party to just one.

As for pending trade pacts, the U.S. free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea have languished for four years.  (But see this post from Monday for a dose of optimism.)

Those countries aren’t waiting for the U.S.  The Wall Street Journal reports today that Colombia is seeking to increase its trade ties with China.

Colombian lawmakers passed legislation they hope will open the floodgates of trade with China, where the government plans two high-level trade missions over the next three months, as a long-delayed U.S. trade deal with the South American nation stalls in Congress.

Colombia Trade Minister Sergio Díaz-Granados said Tuesday’s passage of the “Chinese Trade Promotion and Protection” bill—which affords China certain legal guarantees on its investments in Colombia—could also propel talks with China to build a railway that would link Colombia’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and would serve as an alternative to the Panama Canal.

Trade officials in Bogotá expressed frustration with the slow pace of progress in Washington, which they say contrasts with Chinese eagerness to invest in Colombia, Washington’s closest ally in South America.

In an interview, Mr. Díaz-Granados said he remained hopeful a free-trade pact with the U.S. would be passed before year’s end, but that Colombia can no longer “sit with its arms crossed, waiting.”

“We’ve been talking about a U.S.-Colombia free trade deal for 20 years, and it’s certainly the trade deal we want more than any other,” Mr. Díaz-Granados said. “But in the meantime, we have to continue working in other directions. Our business leaders need to pursue other markets and diversify.”

The U.S. has been waiting for too long.  Every day that lawmakers sit on the trade agreements is a day the country is missing out on opportunities for growth and jobs.

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