Failure to Ratify U.S. – Colombian-Free Trade Agreement

The latest battleground of America’s trade future is Colombia. At a time when we should be investing every ounce of our energy to tear down the barriers to American exports in China, Japan and India instead we are side tracked on the U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement that should have quickly passed Congress with broad bipartisan support.  Any reasonable person in less than three minutes should understand why this is good for America.

(Read what the White House says about Colombia Free Trade)

Colombia has enjoyed preferential-trade access to the U.S. market for the past seventeen years as part of the Andean Trade Preferences Act, or ATPA. ATPA was created to provide farmers and workers alternatives to being swallowed up in the omnipresent narco-industry throughout the Andean region.  As a result 93 percent of Colombian exports arrive in the United States duty-free. Colombia wants the free-trade agreement because it would make this preferential-trade access permanent while solidifying their commitment to democracy and economic freedom.

The last time ATPA came before Congress for renewal in June of 2007, it passed with an overwhelming majority of 365 votes. Now for a poke in your eye. Tariffs ranging from 7 to 80 percent currently apply to U.S. products exported to Colombia putting American exporters at a significant disadvantage.

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement would immediately eliminate tariffs on 80 percent of our industrial and consumer products exported to Colombia. Eventually, 100 percent of U.S. exports would enter Colombia’s market of 44 million potential customers duty-free.

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement levels the playing field by providing much greater benefits to U.S. exporters, which face high tariffs, than it gives to Colombia, whose products already arrive in the United States with very few restrictions.

A perfect illustration is the flowers that Colombia exports to the United States are duty-free, whereas the tractors and fertilizers we send to Colombia to help to grow these flowers pay substantial duties.

The loss of jobs predicted by opponents of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement instills fear while hurting American workers. The big winner in this agreement and all agreements of this kind is squarely American exporters who will return the favor by hiring more American workers.

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