And Another Free Trade Agreement Bites The Dust?

In Friday’s Christian Science Monitor, Howard LaFranchi discusses increasing tensions between the U.S. and Colombia over the pending free trade agreement. According to LaFranchi, Colombian Trade and Tourism Minister Luis Plata is worried about the U.S’s current trade agenda. Mr. Plata brought his concerns to Washington last week, meeting with the National Foreign Trade Council on Wednesday and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Thursday.

In his meetings, Mr. Plata argued that the U.S. should act quickly to pass the Colombia FTA. He laid out three main points:

  • U.S. exports to Colombia are falling.
  • Neighbors in the hemisphere – from Canada to Brazil and Argentina – are happily taking up the slack.
  • Once market share is lost, experience shows, it becomes difficult to regain.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has said that pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea will likely NOT be voted on this year—despite the urging of some Republican leaders. According to the Associated Press,

Reps. Dave Camp and Kevin Brady, top Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, said last month that “the best way to promote exports is to act on the pending trade agreements and open new markets in which we can sell American-made goods and services. The president has admitted these agreements could create over 250,000 American jobs, yet Democrats in Congress refuse to work on, let alone pass, a new trade agreement.”

The agreement with Colombia was signed by President Bush and has been in limbo since 2006. As millions of Americans struggle to provide for their families, President Obama and Congress have again and again neglected opportunities to make free trade agreements a priority.

Passing the three FTAs could help create American jobs while giving consumers access to more choices and inexpensive goods. U.S. Trade Representative Kirk and President Obama need to heed Minister Plata’s advice about the Colombia agreement. Moreover, President Obama needs to think seriously about the potential long-term consequences of holding America back from the closer relationships that free trade provides. The world is moving forward in globalized trade relations; the United States cannot afford to be left behind.