Why Colombia deserves U.S. help
A trade pact is the best way to lower human rights abuses.
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American taxpayers have also assisted by providing more than $5 billion in support under Plan Colombia. Critical to the Colombian government's efforts to fight violence and drugs, the recently reauthorized Plan Colombia began in the final months of the Clinton administration with strong bipartisan congressional support.Skip to next paragraph
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The next logical step in strengthening the US-Colombia relationship is the free- trade agreement. It would open Colombia to US exports and make permanent US openness to Colombian imports, providing the long-term certainty for new investments and job creation that developing nations require to prosper in the global economy. It would lock in a mutually beneficial relationship with one of the strongest allies that the US has in the region – a region in which the citizens of some countries have lost faith in US actions and intentions, supporting leaders that are in some cases openly hostile.
Unfortunately, the looming economic downturn, combined with the presidential election campaign, means US domestic politics could get in the way of the US national interest. But there is a path forward. The administration and Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats on an expanded domestic program of wage insurance and training, in recognition that some American workers need help to adjust to expanding global trade and the technological shifts that in fact have kept the US competitive.
Expanding the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act can provide a down payment on the broader domestic agenda that Democrats want, including reform of healthcare, in order to address American workers' reasonable concerns about job loss in today's global economy.
In turn, Democrats in Congress should withdraw their resistance to this trade agreement, recognizing its potential to contribute to investment, growth, and job creation in Colombia. These, after all, are the key ingredients of development success that elsewhere, when combined with democratic governance, have been the best insurance against human rights abuses and poor enforcement of labor and environmental standards.
That can take us over the rather significant hump now facing us regarding the signal we send to our neighbors not only in Colombia but all over Latin America.
A delay on the vote or, even worse, voting the agreement down would not only put Colombia's progress at risk, it would also put at risk a generation of productive bipartisan US policy in Latin America.