Earlier today, Colombia doubled down on recent anti-innovation steps that continue to prompt questions about the country’s commitment to an open, pro-manufacturing investment climate that is needed to grow its economy. By confirming plans to enforce a Declaration of Public Interest (DPI) and force a 45 percent price cut for Glivec, an innovative pharmaceutical product, Colombia’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MHSP) took a step that is not only unwarranted, but also undermines its own economic growth trajectory. Read More
The National Association of Manufacturers is happy that at long last, starting next month, manufacturers in the United States will obtain duty-free access to the Colombian market. Signed six years ago and passed by Congress last October, the agreement opens South America’s third-largest market to us.
President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. – Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will go into effect May 15th is good news for manufacturers. We have been waiting a long time, but are pleased that at last we can utilize our competitiveness and boost American exports and jobs.
Colombia’s tariffs on U.S. manufactured goods are formidable, raising the cost of American products sold in Colombia by 15 percent. Now, with that disadvantage disappearing on most U.S. products next month, U.S. companies will see growing demand for their products.
Colombian exporters have long had duty-free access to the U.S. market, but it has been subject to the whims of Congress. The agreement, while not giving Colombian exporters an added price advantage, does give them and their U.S. customers certainty that import duties on Colombian products will never increase in the future.
The Colombian market for imported manufactured goods is large and growing. Last year Colombia imported $45 billion of manufactured goods. Their imports of these goods from the United States was $10 billion – giving us a 22 percent share of their import market for manufacturers. The NAM expects that share will rise as U.S. exporters recognize that this new market is available. We also call on the Commerce Department to publicize the new opportunities through its extensive network and to increase its trade promotion resources for the Colombian market.
It was a long road getting here, but rather than looking back at the reasons why it took so long, the NAM looks forward to the new opportunities for manufacturers in the United States which will help create new jobs.
Frank Vargo is vice president of international economic affairs, National Association of Manufacturers.
From AFP, “Uribe pide a congresistas demócratas de EEUU la aprobación del TLC.” That’s “Uribe asks U.S. Democratic Members of Congress to Pass FTA”:
CARTAGENA, Colombia — El presidente colombiano, Álvaro Uribe, pidió el sábado a legisladores demócratas de Estados Unidos aprobar un Tratado de Libre Comercio crucial para Bogotá, sin obtener sin embargo de éstos promesas de que sea firmado este año.
Uribe se reunió en su finca de la ciudad de Montería (norte) con una delegación del Congreso liderada por Eliot Engel, demócrata por el estado de Nueva York, y que llegó a Colombia luego de visitar Argentina y Perú.
Which is to say: Colombia President Alvaro Uribe on Saturday asked Democratic lawmakers from the United States to approve the free trade agreement crucial to Bogota, without obtaining, however, any promises of action this year. Uribe met at his estate in the city of Monteria with a congressional delegation led by Eliot Engel, Democrat of New York, which arrived in Colombia after visiting Argentina and Peru.
Engel is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
See also the Spanish-language account from AP, “Uribe y delegación legislativa de EEUU hablan de TLC.” The trip has attracted little English-language media notice that we can find here in the United States. The Buenos Aires Herald did have a piece on the delegation’s stop in Argentina:
At the reception Engel largely confined himself to allowing his second visit here in two years to speak for itself as indicating his enthusiasm and to presenting the other members of the delegation (all Democrats, thus breaking with a bipartisan tradition): Lynn Woolsey (California), Shelley Berkley (Nevada) and Pedro Pierluisi (Puerto Rico), along with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Christopher McMullen, the right-hand man of Arturo Valenzuela who paid a controversial visit here last month. Engel joked as to who had more Puerto Ricans in his constituency – he or Pierluisi.
John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, has an op-ed marking the third anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. From The Bradenton Herald, “U.S.-Colombia free trade pact will boost employment, if passed“:
With unemployment topping 10 percent nationally, President Obama has increasingly stressed the importance of manufacturing and U.S. exports in creating jobs.
In an early November meeting with his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the president called for “mechanisms that we can start putting in place where we see the kind of growth that used to characterize the U.S. economy — export-driven growth, manufacturing growth.”
One mechanism is already in place, and in fact, has been for three years: the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. If exports and jobs are truly priorities, it’s time for the White House to finally submit the agreement to Congress for enactment.
The argument is especially timely this week as President Obama holds a White House jobs forum. A Reuters headline characterized the goal, “Obama jobs forum to seek growth boost on the cheap.” Enacting a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia certainly fills the bill.
President Obama spoke to the AFL-CIO national convention in Pittsburgh this afternoon. In introducing him, the union’s president, John Sweeney, hailed the Administration’s trade sanctions against Chinese tire imports, receiving a rousing cheer.
Unfortunately, the President did not say a single word about trade policy in his remarks. As we noted below, President Obama highlighted the economic value of trade in his speech yesterday in New York City, declaring his Administration’s commitment to pursuing new trade agreements. The seriousness of that commitment would have reinforced if the President had repeated the same comments to the labor crowd today.
As for card check, here’s what he said:
We’ll grow our middle class by building a strong labor movement. That’s why I named Hilda Solis, the daughter of union members, as our new Labor Secretary. Hilda and I know that whether we’re in good economic times or bad, labor is not the problem — labor is part of the solution.
That’s why we’ve begun reversing and replacing old anti-labor Executive Orders and policies with ones that protect your benefits; protect your safety; and protect your rights to organizing and collective bargaining. That’s why the very first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act to uphold the basic principle of equal pay for equal work. And that’s why I stand behind the Employee Free Choice Act — because if a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union.
Then he moved on to the next topic. The statement elicited a huge cheer, but …well, one sentence for EFCA?
From the President’s speech yesterday in New York City on financial regulation:
A healthy economy in the 21st century also depends on our ability to buy and sell goods in markets across the globe. And make no mistake, this administration is committed to pursuing expanded trade and new trade agreements. It is absolutely essential to our economic future. And each time that we have met — at the G20 and the G8 — we have reaffirmed the need to fight against protectionism. But no trading system will work if we fail to enforce our trade agreements, those that have already been signed. So when — as happened this weekend — we invoke provisions of existing agreements, we do so not to be provocative or to promote self-defeating protectionism, we do so because enforcing trade agreements is part and parcel of maintaining an open and free trading system.
Our emphasis. And agreed on trade’s importance to the U.S. economy. But statements and speeches are not sufficient evidence of a commitment. How about actually putting some political muscle behind Congressional enactment of the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements? Steny Hoyer will be with you.
And we anxiously await the President reaffirming his Administration’s commitment to trade when he speaks to the AFL-CIO today in Pittsburgh. We suggest this language: “It is time for Congress to enact the Panama and Colombia FTAs.” If that’s too much to ask, the President can simply restate the above paragraph.
Dennis Hightower, the recently confirmed Deputy Secretary of Commerce, gave a very strong pro-trade speech yesterday at Commerce’s “Trade North America” conference in Detroit (where NAM President John Engler also spoke). Excerpt:
I have only been on the job at the Commerce Department for a month, but that has given me plenty of time to identify one of the key challenges our department and the entire Obama administration faces:
Keeping trade flowing freely and fairly across our borders.
Canada and Mexico are our first and third largest trading partners—accounting for 32 percent of our total goods exports.
In North America, the U.S., Canada and Mexico—conduct nearly $2.7 billion dollars in trilateral goods trade each day.
Our economic prosperity and the jobs of millions of workers in North America depend on this trade relationship continuing to flourish.
But during these difficult economic times, we have inevitably seen a troubling rise in protectionist sentiment around the world.
Down that path lies more economic pain for us all.
Lots of good comments also regarding export controls and intellectual property protections.
So we have the Administration in favor of trade, Majority Leader Hoyer today once against endorsing Panama and Colombia trade agreements, and a big Democratic majority in the Senate.
Why the delay?