The United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Deserves a Vote

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Sound trade and foreign policy is being held hostage to politics.

The United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) deserves a speedy vote. The U.S. Congress is holding up the agreement—indefinitely. Congressional leaders say that President George W. Bush did not follow “protocol” in sending the agreement to Congress over members’ expressed opposition, so they are overriding the legal procedures and timetables for voting on the agreement. Thus, sound policy is held hostage to politics.

The agreement would benefit both nations’ economies and would be a positive foreign policy gesture. The trade pact is especially important for the U.S. In the first quarter of 2008, economic growth was an anemic 0.9 percent. Nine thousand American companies that do business with Colombia stand to benefit. So do consumers.

Moreover, with Latin America currently beset by a wave of anti-American populism, the Colombia FTA would consolidate a key alliance in that crucial region.

Whether intentionally or not, Congress is hurting America’s trust and credibility with our trading partners, by blocking an economic opportunity for Colombia. At a fundamental level, Congress’s blockade is simply unfair.