Colombia: Time to Trade

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 4, 2007 | Go to article overview

Colombia: Time to Trade


Byline: Barbara Bowie-Whitman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Now that Congress has acted wisely on Peru, the United States has a chance to gain even more by approving another two trade agreements in this hemisphere. These pacts, with Colombia and Panama are winners for the U.S. economy and also would help our trading partners. We gain a greater export boost than each of the partners, while they each gain a larger stimulus to their gross domestic product (GDP), given the relative sizes of our economies.

No U.S. jobs are threatened; our economy has already adjusted to the duty-free import of goods from these two countries under current trade preference programs. Congressional approval of the Colombia and Panama agreements will bring to 12 the number of countries in the Americas with which we have reciprocal trading partnerships. These 12 free trade agreements will cover 88 percent of our hemispheric trade. Disapproving either of them would be a major setback to reaching future agreements in the region.

The Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) is up first. Like the Peru TPA, the Colombia agreement converts a one-way, time-limited, preference program (that gives Colombia special access to U.S. markets but allows no trade access for U.S. products in Colombia) into a permanent reciprocal agreement that grants new U.S. market access. The agreement will open new markets for U.S. goods while continuing duty free access for Colombia.

Colombia is our fifth-largest trading partner in the hemisphere, our largest South American market for U.S. agricultural goods and a strategic hemispheric partner. Of our recent agreements with nine hemispheric countries, this is the most important economically. It is of equal importance geopolitically. It will show we stand by a regional ally challenged by Venezuela's socialist model.

The agreement with Colombia contains substantial benefits: The U.S. gains immediate duty-free market access to Colombia for 80 percent of our consumer and industrial products.

U.S. farm exports that will receive immediate duty-free access to Colombia include high-quality beef, cotton, wheat, soybeans and soybean meal, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, and many processed food products. A wide range other farm products will benefit from improved market access.

The agreement establishes a strong legal framework for U.S. investors in Colombia.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) estimates that the agreement would result in a larger increase in U.S. exports to Colombia ($1.1 billion a year) than in Colombia's exports to the U.S. ($487 million).

The ITC says that U.S. GDP may rise by $2. …

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