The Corner

“Not a Matter of Whether, but of When”

Just got off the phone with Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez who has worked his heart out to pass the FTA and–as a great lover of freedom–is ecstatic over the gains President Uribe has made against FARC. He says, as far as he is concerned, passing FTA is “not a matter of whether but of when.” He would hope it would be in this session of Congress, but knows “the odds are not in favor” of it. “Next in line,” he says, “is a lame-duck session of Congress.” He sees the justifications for opposing the deal collapsing everywhere he looks. Opponents say that they want to protect workers in Colombia. “Uribe has a 90 percent approval rating,” Gutierrez says “It’s not as though we know more about what’s right for workers in Colombia than he does.” According to Gutierrez, every time President Bush talks to Uribe and asks what the U.S. can do for Colombia, Uribe says one thing–pass FTA. “I don’t know how anyone can deny the FTA,” he says of Uribe, “after everyone has seen how much progress he’s made, how popular he is, and the recognition he’s received around the world. I can’t believe Congress is the only one who doesn’t see it.” If Congress keeps delaying it, Gutierrez worries “how selfish and out of touch we’d look with the world, with our neighbors, and with our allies.” What’s so aggravating, of course, is on top of everything else, our exporters are paying tariffs to get their goods into Colombia as long as the FTA languishes, while most Colombian goods already have tariff-free access to the U.S. Is it too much to ask that Congress act in the country’s national-security and economic interests, even if it upsets unions? We’ll see…

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