Free Trade Pacts With Perú, Panamá and Colombia

International free trade received a big boost of support when the House of Representatives approved a United States trade agreement with Peru, an important goal for the government of Alan Garcia. Panama and Colombia are also awaiting similar decisions. The bipartisan support for this initiative was significant in that it included more stringent environmental and labor standards which were put in by the Democratic majority. This is important because it is a key element of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy which foments democracy by providing broader opportunities for bilateral free trade initiatives and rightly so. Free trade is an important element in advancing democracy and moving countries away from the cycle of poverty which plagues Latin America.

Encouraging economic investment and growing commerce between the two nations will benefit both businesses and employees, while providing new markets and economic opportunities for all. For U.S. businesses, the outlook is important. According to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, more than 43% of exports to Peru come from small to medium size businesses. These companies stand to grow. In addition, Peruvian products will come to the United States at very attractive prices which is good for buyers.

It is noteworthy that the House of Representatives approved this agreement with strong bipartisan support because encouraging free trade should be a fundamental element of American economic and foreign policy. Unfortunately, inter party bickering sometimes interferes with those important goals, often confounding our allies and weakening the governments the U.S. needs to support. Such is the case of Colombia, which is also awaiting a vote in Congress in support of a similar free trade agreement. Despite all that is known and written about the dangers of 21st Century Socialism, as the recent Marxist wave is now called throughout Latin America, and the enormous challenges Colombia faces with narcoterrorism, some in Congress hold the government of President Alvaro Uribe to standards that are not in keeping with the political realities his country and the region faces.

It is imperative that the Senate finalizes the free trade agreement with Peru and that Congress approves a much needed, and deserved, free trade agreement with Colombia. It will benefit all.