The Democrats in Congress had been holding up final approval of the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia for years, lacking support of their Big Labor constituents, particularly the United Auto Workers. The FTA with Korea passed becauseKorea’s pact got the imprimatur of one labor union, the United Auto Workers, while Panama’s and Colombia’s pacts did not.
in spite of the fact that
the agreements cost nothing, will add some $12 billion in goods and services to the U.S. economy and are job-creating machines
Allow me to remind you that, particularly with Colombia, it’s Americans who are having to pay export fees and duties, while the US is losing market share to other countries.
Now the FTAs are getting more support,
Republican, sent Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders a letter urging swift passage of the Colombia and Panama deals. The 19 served under no fewer than six U.S. Presidents, from Gerald Ford through George W. Bush.
The signatories include two former special envoys to the Americas; six former U.S. Trade Representatives, including Democrats Mickey Kantor and Charlene Barshefsky; and 11 former Assistant Secretaries of State for the Western Hemisphere, including Bernard Aronson and several other Democrats.
The letter explains the clear American economic self-interest in approving the pacts. In the five years prior to 2008, U.S. exports of major grain products to Colombia grew by 38% a year, worth nearly $4 billion. Since 2008, while the U.S. failed to approve its bilateral pact, Colombia has moved on deals with Canada, Chile, the EU, Brazil, Argentina and other farm product competitors of the U.S.
One result is that U.S. farm exports to Colombia fell 48% between 2008 and 2009, and another 45% in 2010. Exports of corn, wheat and soybeans fell by 68%. The bipartisan letter estimates nearly $700 million in lost U.S. exports in those farm products alone.
What did Obama do? Nothing. The White House ignored the letter.
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Finance Committee said Wednesday they would withhold approval of another trade agreement – a pact with South Korea that Obama recently completed – unless it is packaged with a Colombiadeal and a third, less controversial one being negotiated with Panama.
Today a Colombian delegation is holding talks with administration officials, who remain beholden to the UAW.
Let’s hope the Senate Finance Committee members prevail.
Big Unions, Big Money,