Last week Joe Biden, after decades of blocking it, sang the praises of free trade as if he had been championing it all along. Mary O’Grady lets the record stand on Joe Biden’s Free-Trade Epiphany
He discovers Colombia’s decades-old export of cut flowers—and credits the Obama administration.
By April 2007, when the Bush administration sent the U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement to Congress for ratification, the cut-flower export industry was thriving. One reason was preferential access to the U.S. market granted by Congress. Mr. Biden certainly is familiar with ATPA since he voted against its reauthorization in August 2002.
That year is memorable for Colombians because the country was being overrun by FARC terrorists, and Mr. Uribe was elected president. Over the next eight years the former governor of Antioquia, whose father had been murdered by the FARC, worked tirelessly and at great personal peril to restore order. As Mr. Biden notes in his op-ed, the road from Bogotá to flower farms was “impossibly dangerous ten years ago,” though he doesn’t give Mr. Uribe or the Colombian military the credit they deserve for that reversal of fortune.
In late December 2010 I had numerous conversations with Colombian officials who were sweating it out because a modified version of ATPA (called ATP-DEA) had not yet been renewed. The Obama administration was refusing to send the free-trade agreement to Congress for a vote, and Valentine’s Day—a crucial holiday for flower growers and by extension the economy—was less than two months away. An estimated 200,000 Colombian jobs were tied to the industry and a roughly equivalent number in the U.S.
Mr. Obama eventually signed the U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement in late 2011 after sitting on it for 3½ years. A Colombian official told me last week that he believes it was only completed because Mr. Uribe—whom Mr. Obama’s international-socialist friends hated—was no longer in office. There were two other crucial developments, he said. Congressional Republicans insisted that it be voted on together with the pending Panama and South Korea free-trade agreements, and Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) pushed for it in conjunction with the stipulation that Colombia would expand laws raising the cost of labor.
Mr. Biden voted against the U.S.-Chile free-trade agreement in 2003 and the Central American free-trade agreement in 2005. Mexican trucks still don’t have unfettered access to the U.S., in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, because the Teamsters and therefore Democrats won’t allow it. Mr. Biden doesn’t explain any of this.
He never will.