October 03, 2011

Colombia: Ally And Trade Partner

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The U.S. and Colombia have a long history of working together.  Marco Fidel Suárez, President of Colombia in the early 1920s, was a proponent of a policy tying Colombia's future to America through geography, trade and democracy.  During World War II, the alliance between our countries became more defined.  More recently, Colombia has been a regional partner in counternarcotics and security and a bulwark against hostile and autocratic regimes in our hemisphere.  Colombia's partnership also offers an opportunity to help improve our economy through better access to its market.

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), when implemented, would immediately eliminate duties on 80 percent of U.S. exports to Colombia.  Within 10 years, the agreement would also provide for the elimination of most other tariffs on U.S. products entering Colombia.  This agreement was signed by our two nations nearly five years ago.  However, the President must formally submit implementing legislation to the U.S. Congress for approval before the agreement can go into effect.  Meanwhile, Colombia's Congress approved the agreement in 2007.     

Colombia is Idaho's 29 th largest export market, and reducing duties on U.S. exports of goods and services to Colombia will expand opportunity and reduce the cost of accessing this market.  Idaho's exports to Colombia totaled $6.5 million in 2010, up from $4 million in 2008.  Agriculture represents almost 75 percent of Idaho's exports to Colombia, with computers and electronic products second at 16 percent.  The U.S. International Trade Commission estimated that, if implemented, the trade agreement could increase exports of U.S. products to Colombia by more than $1 billion and provide a $2.5 billion boost to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.  Idaho producers would benefit from the removal of duties on peas, lentils, dry beans, apples, cherries, potatoes, wheat, barley, and beef and dairy products.

Colombia is also of significant geostrategic interest to the U.S., and America should not let Colombia's credibility or security be jeopardized because we did not follow through on our agreement.  The Heritage Foundation reported that Colombia has been forced to deal with "dual isolation"-- isolation from the U.S. due to our failure to pass the trade agreement and isolation from the region because of close ties with the U.S.  Failure to ratify the agreement "will only generate more insecurity in Colombia."   With a population of more than 45 million people, Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America and a stable democracy.  We have much to gain from better access to this market and a stronger foothold in the region.

Deputy United States Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro testified before Congress that the agreementwill provide significant economic and commercial benefits for our exporters and support thousands of additional jobs for our workers.  Yet, the Obama Administration has still not submitted the agreement to Congress for enactment.  During the long lapse in action on the trade agreement, Colombia has worked on other bilateral trade pacts, particularly with Canada and Europe.  Unless the agreement is enacted, farmers, manufacturers and service providers in other countries will secure preferential access to the Colombian market and undercut U.S. competitors.  We have a partner that is willing to improve our access to its market.  More time should not be wasted in enacting this agreement. 

 

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