As trade pact with US sits, Colombia looks to China, others
Colombia's ambassador this week urged Congress to approve a free trade pact negotiated back in 2007. US is losing market share as Colombia looks elsewhere for imports.
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That would be Colombia’s free-trade deal with Canada.
The Colombia-Canada trade pact takes effect Aug. 15, Ambassador Silva notes. As for the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, or FTA, which both governments approved in 2007? It’s still languishing in Congress.
Passage of all three measures next month appears possible – but at the same time new stumbling blocks are appearing from both Congress and the White House that could once again put off their adoption.
The Obama administration is demanding that Congress extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance program at the same time it approves the FTAs – a twinning many Republicans oppose. TAA is a program for training and compensating American workers displaced as a result of trade deals.
On the other side of the aisle, some Democrats want to hold off on the FTA with Colombia, in particular, until they see further progress on an “action plan” for labor and human rights in the South American country.
In the meantime, Colombia is not sitting idly by, waiting for the US to act. In addition to the FTA with Canada, Colombia expects to complete an FTA with the European Union by early next year, Silva says. Just this week, he adds, Colombia signed an investment agreement with China.
“We believe and trust that President Obama and his team will have a US-Colombia FTA approved before the summer recess,” Silva told a group of journalists in Washington Friday. “But after not seeing any action for so long, we have moved forward on trade elsewhere. It doesn’t mean we are going to depart from our trade alliance and friendship with the US,” he added, “but we are moving ahead [with others] very strongly.”
As Silva’s comments suggest, the four years of congressional inaction on the FTA have prompted a variety of strategies for prodding US lawmakers toward a vote. Aside from the “we’re-turning-elsewhere-for-trade” argument, the Colombians have offered statistics demonstrating that, indeed, the US share of Colombia’s imports is falling in the absence of a trade pact.
The Colombian government has even sought to turn the jobs argument against US protectionists who insist free trade means job losses at home.
“I think Capitol Hill is hearing from many parties that delaying all the FTAs is not a good policy – particularly when the US needs these jobs,” Silva said.