Juan Manuel Santos Archives - Shopfloor

Colombia’s President in Europe Talks Trade, Safety

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Reading Der Spiegel’s recent interview with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, we were reminded of the cliched reaction we often encountered in Germany in the 1980s whenever Chicago came up in conversations with the older generation: “Chicago? Gangsters! Al Capone! Bang, bang.”

Now, it’s Der Spiegel unsophisticated take, “Colombia? Drug cartels! Medellin! Bang, bang!”

Santos, who makes a state visit to Berlin on Wednesday, managed to correct the interviewer’s preconceptions and errors to make the case for Colombia as a business partner.

Santos: Europe would be well advised to pay more attention to Latin America. The emerging economies are the engines of the global economy. Colombia has done too little to improve its reputation in Europe. We recently negotiated a free trade agreement with the European Union, and now trade will flourish.

SPIEGEL: That is what you hope …

Santos: Yes, but there is also a reason for that. Our population is primarily young, and more and more poor people are entering the middle class. This is a market of millions of potential consumers.

SPIEGEL: Which investors from Germany would you like to see?

Santos : German high-tech companies that invest in biotechnology, for example. Colombia has a huge variety of plant and animal species, and we have enormous potential. Small and mid-sized companies should come to Colombia. From here, they have access to the entire Latin American market. Besides, Germany could help us improve our education system.

Negotiators with the European Union and Colombia signed the final texts of the Free Trade Agreements last month.

An Obvious Omission in President’s Good Remarks on Trade

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President Obama’s weekend radio address built on his trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador to make the cause for expanded U.S. trade with Latin America. From the White House transcript:

Latin America is a part of the world where the economy is growing very quickly. And as these markets grow, so does their demand for goods and services. The question is, Where are those goods and services going to come from? As President, I want to make sure these products are made in America. I want to open more markets around the world so that American companies can do more business and hire more of our people.

Here’s a statistic to explain why this is important. Every $1 billion of goods and services we export supports more than 5,000 jobs in the United States. So, the more we sell overseas, the more jobs we create on our shores.

Absent from the President’s remarks is any mention of Colombia and the ever-pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Colombia boasts the second largest economy in South America, so its omission from the address stood out.

Last month, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) also traveled to Brazil and fittingly included Colombia in his South American journey. From the Finance Committee, Feb. 26, “Baucus Meets with Colombian President, Highlights Need for U.S.-Colombia FTA, Renewing Andean Trade Preferences“:

Washington, DC / Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Read More

Colombia’s Trade Opportunities Move On While U.S. Dithers

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As Canada moves forward with negotiating and enacting trade agreements to institutionalize advantages for its exporters, the United States does not. Our friends and allies have noticed.

Today’s Washington Post features an interview with Juan Manuel Santos, the new president of Colombia, focusing on Colombia-Venezuela relations. Inaction by the Obama Administration and Congress on the pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Act is another point of discussion. From “What President Juan Manuel Santos wants for Colombia“:

What are you going to do about improving economic growth in your country?

Growth is going very well. In this year, I think we are going to grow about 5 percent. . . . We are going to concentrate on infrastructure, housing, agricultural business, mining and energy, and innovation.

You have had problems with the free-trade agreement with the U.S.
We have done everything we can. It is in the hands of the U.S. Congress. . . . People in Colombia don’t understand [why] if we are strategic allies, other countries have free-trade agreements that are not as strategic or as good allies. I hope that after November the free-trade agreement will be approved.

When the Republicans come to power?

Once you arrange your own internal political difficulties.

Are you trying to diversify your country’s trade?

Absolutely, yes. . . . We depend too much on the U.S. and Venezuela.

From Latino Business Review, May 19, “European Union opens free trade with Colombia and Peru

After Colombia Elections, Follow Good Wishes With Trade Pact

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The Washington Post this week hailed the election of Juan Manuel Santos as Colombia’s president as a demonstration that  “pro-American, pro-free-market politicians still have life in Latin America.” The editorial, “Will Washington treat Colombia’s Santos as an ally?” also posed this very real concern:

[The] question raised by Mr. Santos’s election is whether the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders will greet this strong and needed U.S. ally with open arms — or with the arms-length disdain and protectionist stonewalling to which they subjected his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe.

The National Association of Manufacturers strongly agrees with the Post’s view: The manner in which outgoing President Alvaro Uribe has been treated by Congress with regard to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is absolutely unacceptable. President Uribe — who must be regarded as one of America’s strongest allies and friends — has waited patiently for more than three years for successive Congresses to approve the FTA. President Bush sent it up to Congress in 2008, only to have Speaker Pelosi block consideration of the agreement by changing the rules of Trade Promotion Authority.

Mr. Uribe will leave office with one of his signature goals incomplete –- the enactment of the U.S.-Colombia FTA. The election of Mr. Santos as Colombia’s President is a strong signal that President Uribe’s policies – which have made Colombia one of the fastest growing and most promising economies in the Western Hemisphere – will be continued. We can only hope that the current U.S. policy of inaction on all pending trade agreements, and the U.S.-Colombia agreement in particular – will NOT be continued.

Mr. Uribe, in his two terms as President of Colombia, was a driving force of reform across the board. His policies reinvigorated and expanded Colombia’s economy (it is now ranked as one of the best places to do business in Latin America), decimated the terrorist FARC rebellion across much of the country, improved the education and the social welfare systems, and dramatically reduced the kidnappings, murders and labor violence that have plagued Colombia. As the Post notes, he will leave office as one of the most successful Presidents in Latin American history. He also leaves a strong democracy, a vibrant civil society, and a strong foundation of hope for Mr. Santos to build upon.

What he also leaves behind is an pending trade agreement that will increase U.S. exports to Colombia by more than a billion dollars annually, according to U.S. ITC estimates. A trade agreement that will create thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs. A trade agreement that will level the playing field for U.S. products in Colombia, where we now face tariffs averaging 14 percent. In May 2007 as part of a bipartisan agreement, the U.S.-Colombia FTA had enforceable provisions on labor added to the text to address concerns Democratic lawmakers had about the agreement. Three years later, despite this groundbreaking change in U.S. trade policy, we are still waiting for Congress to take a vote and approve it. The votes for U.S.-Colombia (as with Panama and Korea) are there right now.

As Mr. Santos takes office in August, he will receive phone calls and telegrams with good wishes. As a welcome to the neighborhood present, quick action on the U.S.-Colombia FTA would be an awfully nice gesture – and a present to America’s manufacturers, farmers and service workers.

Colombia Again Embraces Markets, Trade; So Should Congress

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Colombia held its runoff election for president on Sunday, and voters gave 69 percent of the vote to Juan Manuel Santos, the 58-year old former defense minister who leadership helped bring the narco-terrorist guerilla war under control while strengthening protections for human rights. Santos campaigned on a free-market platform that promised a continuation of the economic policies of President Alvaro Uribe.The Wall Street Journal editorializes, “Colombia Speaks“:

This triumph also ought to echo in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and the White House continue to deny a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. One liberal Democratic excuse has been concerns about Mr. Uribe’s security policies, but Colombia’s people have now spoken.

Like Mr. Uribe, Mr. Santos wants the free trade deal to force his country to face the discipline of global competition and turn Colombia into the next Chile or Taiwan. Such progress would further reduce the FARC’s appeal, and it is certainly in the U.S. national interest. This one shouldn’t even be controversial.

The Washington Post also asks editorially, “Will Washington treat Colombia’s Santos as an ally?

Ratification of the free-trade agreement would serve the administration’s stated goal of boosting U.S. exports while bolstering a nation that could be an anchor for democracy and political moderation in the region. It would also allow the administration and Congress to demonstrate that friends of the United States will be supported and not scorned in Washington.