Taking longer, for all the wrong reasons, the final approval of the free trade agreement with Colombia is now on a new treadmill, in time for President Santos’s meeting with President Obama,
Colombia Pact Clears Path for Other Trade Agreements
The Obama administration unveiled a revised free-trade pact with Colombia that boosts the chances for congressional passage of three trade-opening agreements that have languished for more than four years.
The deal requires Colombia to stiffen its laws to provide greater protection of Colombian labor organizers and up to five years’ imprisonment for those who disrupt or threaten union organizing or activities. By satisfying at least some Democrats concerned about Bogota’s history of violence against union leaders, the deal sets the stage for action on trade pacts with South Korea and Panama, senior administration officials said.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who is in the U.S., is expected to meet Thursday with President Barack Obama and sign off on the revised trade pact.
Republican leaders propose to move the three trade pacts in a similar time frame, if not together. To retain Democratic support needed to pass the agreements, lawmakers say they must also renew a Trade Adjustment Assistance program for workers who are displaced as a result of trade agreements.
Key to ensuring Colombia keeps its part of the bargain is renewal of an Andean Trade Preferences program providing favorable tariff treatment to imports from Colombia and other Latin American nations linked to the narcotics trade, in order to foster alternative industries.
Republicans helped drive the administration’s effort to revamp the Colombia agreement by linking action on the much larger Korea pact to movement on the smaller Latin American deals. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk early this year accelerated an effort with the Colombian government to revise the trade pact to draw enough Democratic support to move the deal forward.
Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade pacts in the House, urged the administration to begin drafting the first stage of the legislation, “so that Congress can consider all three of our pending trade agreements by July 1.”
Trade pacts between the European Union and Korea, and between Colombia and Canada, take effect July 1, potentially limiting the positive impact of the U.S. pacts on U.S. exporters.
Aides to Mr. Camp said congressional leaders and the White House had yet to agree on when, and in what order, they would consider the three agreements.
Here’s the glitch:
Administration officials said they didn’t expect the revised pact to satisfy labor unions, or many of their congressional allies.
In a perfect world, the FTA with Colombia will prevail.
Since it’s not a perfect world, I’m not holding my breath.
Interestingly, the Colombians are extraditing Walid “The Turk” Makled – a suspected drug trafficker who in his heyday was said to smuggle 10 tons of cocaine a month into the U.S. – to Venezuela and not the USA:
Observers say Mr. Santos’ plans to send Mr. Makled to Venezuela make sense because Colombia wants to continue improving relations with the Venezuelan government after trade and diplomatic relations soured under former Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe. Venezuela is an important trading partner with Colombia.
One good trade leads to another, indeed.
Trade agreements are about fairness; they are not a “Zero-sum game”, do not weaken the economy, do not drive trade deficits. Not convinced? Read this:
Misconceptions About Trade Agreements