Approving the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement
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.