Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with his strong defense of Canada’s trade agreement with Colombia, provides a stark contrast with President Obama’s weak-kneed approach to the long-languishing U.S.- Colombia Free Trade Agreement. In Bogota, for talks with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Harper called critics of the trade pact phonies who are using human rights issues as a screen to mask their protectionist agendas. The trade agreement with Colombia goes into effect August 15.
“Colombia is a wonderful country with great possibility and great ambition. And we need to be encouraging that every step of the way. That’s why we have made this a priority to get this deal done. We can’t block the progress of a country like this for protectionist reasons.”
Harper noted that free trade can help Colombia improve its economy and better deal with security problems in that country.
“I think there are protectionist forces in our country and in the United States that don’t care about development and prosperity in this part of the world. And that’s unfortunate.”
Too bad President Obama didn’t take lessons from Canada in how to support economic growth through trade and stand up to union obstructionists in the U.S. who have campaigned against trade agreements using the same phony arguments. Instead, he has caved in to their serial demands for more and more labor restrictions and expanded programs for workers who have ostensibly lost their jobs because of trade.
With the country’s need for job growth that doesn’t involve more government spending, sending the three pending free trade agreements to Congress immediately after their recess should be a no-brainer for President Obama. The U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated that just two FTAs – with South Korea and Panama – would increase U.S. GDP by about .15 percent, which could translate into about 150,000 jobs, according to the ITC’s rule of thumb.