When I started to write this week’s blog on Monday’s afternoon, I was very optimistic to see Congress finally voting an agreement that has been pending since 2006 and that should pass on its merits because of the economic and national security benefits for both Colombia and the U.S.The significance of this agreement goes beyond the traditional benefits of free trade. This is also an agreement to back the closest U.S. ally in the hemisphere and a statement of support for democracy in the region.After being very close to collapse ten years ago, something that as a Colombian/American I had an opportunity to witness first hand, Colombia has transformed to an increasingly prosperous and peaceful democracy. The FTA will help Colombia to continue its path to peace and prosperity, by strengthening its economy, while at the same time -according to the U.S. International Trade Commission- will allow U.S. to increase its exports to Colombia by 1.1 billion, benefiting 9,000 American businesses of which 8,000 are small businesses.Unfortunately, my optimism from earlier this week did not last long. On Thursday, it was clear that the vote would not move forward, leaving the agreement indefinitely postponed.What is at stake?The consequences of the recent developments go well beyond the Colombia FTA. The U.S. credibility in negotiating and implementing trade agreements and the competitiveness of the U.S. industry are at risk.Colombia, as well as many countries in the world are opening markets to reap the benefits of international trade. These countries will sign trade agreements with major Asian countries that have industries that compete directly with U.S. industry in every single line of the economy. -As other countries’ FTAs move forward, U.S. industry will be at disadvantage. Foreign companies would have significant price advantages because of the lower tariff and non-tariff barriers they would enjoy. Furthermore, the increased employment that could have been created in the U.S. as a result of trade would not be realized.There is no doubt that among certain groups trade is a complex and sensitive issue, in particular in an election year. However, the stakes are too high to let short-term policy interests interfere with the future of our economy and the hemisphere.
LONDON, UK -- A substantial report called ‘Safer Children in a Digital World’ was published today by the Byron Review which set up by the British Government last autumn. The report looks at child safety in respect of video games and their use of the internet.The report contains a number of recommendations for the technology industry to consider. The overall tone is very constructive and practical. It makes it clear that there are no simple regulatory solutions but that the best outcomes will be achieved where there are partnerships between government, industry and parents working together. It points out that there is no such thing as a risk-free environment so we must also help children to gain the resilience they will need to deal with problems when they occur.When commenting on the report, its author, Dr Tanya Byron, has been complimentary about the internet industry’s willingness to engage with her on these sensitive issues, and of the partnership work that is already taking place. As well as UK specific initiatives, there are some good global examples of industry supporting child safety such as the Family Online Safety Institute.
WASHINGTON, DC — Last week, President Bush announced that his Administration will send the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) implementing legislation to the Congress just after the congressional Easter Recess. There are commercially and politically meaningful reasons to pass this legislation, I’m almost breathless thinking about it (I’m also six months pregnant so maybe that has something to do with it, too):- Goods from Colombia already enter the United States duty-free, so implementation of this agreement will provide open market access for U.S. goods and services being exported to Colombia. High-tech equipment currently encounters a 10% import duty upon entry to Colombia, but as soon as the bilateral agreement goes into effect, Colombia will eliminate import duties on ICT products via adoption of the WTO Information Technology Agreement.- The Uribe government is pro-democracy and anti-crime, having reduced overall homicides by 40% between 2002-2007 and those among union members 87% in the same period. Some members of the U.S. Congress have used violence against unions as justification to oppose passage of the FTA. My question is: How will rejection of the FTA help further decrease union violence in Colombia? I would argue that walking away from further economic engagement with Colombia would actually deepen the economic and social woes of a nation struggling to reform and open up.- It’s also important for United States policymakers and lawmakers to continue their support for an open trade policy, especially as the economy slows. Exports from the U.S. are a bright spot in an otherwise bleak economic picture. Net exports added 1.4 percentage points to economic growth in the latter-half of 2007, more than making up for the 0.7 percentage point subtracted by the decline in residential construction. Lawmakers should embrace a policy mechanism that would help the U.S. economy grow further and help American companies compete internationally.Approval of the U.S.-Colombia FTA presents an opportunity for American lawmakers to enhance the competitiveness of American IT companies internationally, embrace an important ally against violence and extremism in the region, and promote U.S. economic growth.
The US health care industry has been one of the last to benefit from the increased efficiencies brought by the adoption of information technology tools. Despite abundant evidence that technology could help lower costs and improve health care outcomes, providers have been slow to adopt. For most US providers the biggest obstacle has been poor return on investment. A small physician practice could face costs of over $30,000, yet that practice may see very little of the financial benefits. Instead, patients and insurers -either private or government-run Medicare and Medicaid -- will benefit from fewer duplicative or unnecessary medical tests, reduced medical errors, and better care of chronic illnesses. Read More »
I’ve just returned from a fascinating visit to Bangalore, India. It’s hard to put into words what is happening there. Sacred cows (literally) still roam the streets of the city, while an explosion in domestic and foreign information technology companies have fueled exponential population growth at a level unequaled in the US or Europe. The streets are overfilled with buses and motorcycles taking commuters on their way to work in buildings and corporate campuses that rival anything in the west. But perhaps most fascinating is the level of energy and commitment to building an economic foundation that will last for generations -- people are not thinking about making their children better off, but their grandchildren, too. To accomplish that, they are turning Bangalore into a center of innovation in IT technology and business process. Thinking of India only as a place where outsourced call center jobs exist? If so, you seriously misunderstand and underestimate the economic transformation underway. Read More »