Colombia trade agreement with U.S. blocked in Washington

The decision of the U.S. House Democratic leadership to block a vote on the US-Colombia trade agreement is impossible to defend except on the narrowest political grounds, says the Financial Times. Voting the deal down might have required an explanation – not an easy thing to provide. Delay, which may serve in the end to kill the measure anyway, was the obvious response.

But be in no doubt, the failure to adopt this measure is economic and diplomatic nonsense, says the Times:

  • The United States is open to Colombian imports under the terms of agreements in place for more than 10 years.

  • The deal would make those agreements permanent (currently they must be periodically renewed), but the shock to the U.S. economy of increased imports from this small country, such as it was, is already accommodated.

  • The further lowering of barriers required by the deal is all on the Colombian side.

  • Even the conventional mercantilist arithmetic says the Democrats' manoeuvre is a bad mistake.

    Diplomatically, it is worse, says the Times. Colombia is a U.S. ally in a region where friends are few and far between. Its leader, Alvaro Uribe, has staked a lot on this deal, and has pleaded with the United States to approve it.

    Democrats say they oppose the agreement not just on trade grounds, but because of Colombia's human rights violations, and in particular because of murders of trade unionists. This is a travesty, says the Times:

  • The implication that murders of unionists are systematic and officially tolerated is false.

  • The government is struggling to reduce murders of all kinds in an extraordinarily violent country, with some success.

    One of the best remedies for what ails Colombia is the prospect of faster economic growth that the blocked trade deal would have helped to underwrite, says the Times.

    Source: A Setback On Trade In Washington, Financial Times, April 14, 2008.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 22 April 2008
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