Today's Washington Post and Los Angeles Times both endorse passage of the U.S- Colombia free trade agreement, which many Democratic politicians, pressured by organized labor, have refused to endorse. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ducked the issue by refusing to bring it to a vote. President-elect Obama got considerable help in his campaign from labor unions that oppose the deal, but no political debt is worth undertaking such a disastrous course as scuttling this trade deal.
Not only is Colombia the United States' strongest ally in South America — a fact that would make scuppering the deal a slap in the face for Colombia and a political victory for the increasingly unhinged Hugo Chavez — but the last thing America needs in a time of economic turmoil is a Hawley-Smoot lite in the form of failed trade liberalization.
For all the bailouts and stimulus packages being batted around Washington, what the American economy really needs is greater opportunity to innovate and invest — in other words, less burdensome regulation and more open markets. As the Times' editorial argues:
The pact would balance and normalize a trade relationship that is now one-way. Colombia has almost unfettered access to U.S. markets — 91% of its goods enter duty free — but U.S. products face tariffs of up to 35%. Each Caterpillar truck sold in Colombia, for example, is taxed more than $200,000. This is a hindrance to prosperity for both countries. Currently, about 9,000 U.S. businesses export to Colombia, and were this deal passed, that number would skyrocket.
And, as the Post's editorial says:
The main economic effect of the trade agreement would be to enable U.S. producers — automakers included — to export to Colombia tariff-free. This would simply level the playing field, because 90 percent of Colombian goods already arrive in the United States tariff-free under temporary trade preferences that Congress recently renewed. With U.S. goods exports to Colombia totaling over $8 billion per year, the pact offers a nifty dose of stimulus for U.S. businesses and workers.
Stimulus, indeed! As CEI's Wayne Crews argues, to stimulate, deregulate. The same is true of liberalizing trade.