Trade agreements have always been difficult for Congress. Rarely are the debates about the merits of the deals themselves or even about our economic strategy or trade policy. Presidents prefer to make trade agreements congressional referendums on how the United States views the country in question. It is a high-risk strategy that puts all our interests in a particular country on the line, even if the trade impact of the agreement itself is minimal (as is often the case).
There are important regional economic and political imperatives in favor of the Colombia agreement. It would affirm America’s interest in and commitment to Colombia’s economic development while also increasing market access for U.S. goods. Currently, the United States provides tariff-free access to many Colombian goods under the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Enforcement Act, but we are not afforded similar treatment in Colombia. This deal would change that.
This is quite possibly the most cogent and clear-headed op-ed on trade I’ve ever read. It recognizes the absurd over-reach most congressional debates on specific trade deals take on, as if one’s vote on a single trade deal is indicative of one’s view on trade writ large. It recognizes the importance of such deals for foreign relations, and relative lack of importance of their tearing down of relatively minimal tariffs and trade barriers. But it also affirms the good trade can do for the US and, most importantly, poorer countries like Colombia. Just another piece of evidence that the Obama campaign is far more sensible on trade than Hillary or Edwards.