Sign the Colombia Trade Pact Further Delay Will Hinder Economic Growth and Cost Jobs
Byline: Carlos M. Gutierrez, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
It has been four years since the United States and Colombia signed a reciprocal trade agreement. Unfortunately, the agreement has yet to be implemented. In June 2007, then-President George W. Bush sent the agreement to Congress but the Democratic majority in the House refused to vote on it. The new Republican Majority in the House must ensure a vote on this agreement, as it will create U.S. jobs and make good on a promise to an important ally.
Passing the agreement would create U.S. jobs by eliminating tariffs on U.S. exports to Colombia. Tariff elimination would enable U.S. exporters to compete on a level playing field with exporters from countries such as Canada and those in the European Union whose products already enter Colombia duty-free because of their existing trade agreements. It also would level the playing field between the United States and Colombia. This is because most Colombian goods already enter the United States duty-free, while most U.S. exports to Colombia face significant tariffs.
Longtime opponents of free trade oppose passage of the agreement, arguing that Colombia should be punished for violence affecting union members. They contend that Colombia is particularly dangerous for union members. In fact, a study by the highly regarded nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies showed that union members were less likely to be targeted than other Colombians. In recent decades, Colombia has suffered tremendous and heart-wrenching violence at the hands of drug lords and terrorists. The violence has touched nearly every corner of Colombia's soil as the government has struggled for control of the country. It has touched nearly every family. It is misleading to suggest that union members have been disproportionately affected by the violence.
Fortunately, violence against all people in Colombia has dropped dramatically over the past decade as terrorist groups such as FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have been marginalized. Under former President Alvaro Uribe's leadership, the people of Colombia regained control of their country. At a time when the Colombian people are celebrating the gradual return of peace to their country, they must wonder why some in Washington say they have not done enough to deserve a trade agreement with America. …