“Recently I sent Congress an agreement that would expand America’s access to markets in Colombia. Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House has chosen to block the Columbia free trade agreement instead of giving it an up or down vote that Congress committed to. Her action is unprecedented and extremely unfortunate. I hope that the Speaker will change her mind. If she does not, the agreement will be dead. And this will be bad for American workers and bad for America’s national security,” Bush said.
Bush said that the agreement would lift tariffs on thousands of U.S. goods that are being imported into Columbia, “Today, almost all of Colombia’s exports to the United States enter duty-free. But the 9,000 American businesses that export to Colombia, including nearly 8,000 small and mid-sized firms, face significant tariffs on their products. The situation is completely one-sided. Our markets are open to Colombian products, but barriers that make it harder to sell American goods in Colombia remain. If the free trade agreement were implemented, however, most of Colombia’s tariffs on American goods would be eliminated immediately.”
The president also said that America would be a bad friend if Congress did not approve this agreement, “By obstructing this agreement, Congress is signaling to a watching hemisphere that America cannot be trusted to support its friends. Over the past six years, Colombia’s President Uribe has been a steadfast ally of the United States. He’s transformed his country from a near-failed state to a stable democracy with a growing economy. He has partnered with America in the fight against drugs and terror. And he has addressed virtually every one of Congress’s concerns, including revising the free trade agreement to include some of the most rigorous labor and environmental protections in history.”
In some ways, this story is completely overblown. A 2006 study by the U.S. International Trade Commission of the economic impact a trade agreement between the U.S. and Columbia found that the U.S. would gain only a net $600 million a year in trade benefits. The U.S. sugar industry was the only sector likely to suffer employment losses. The disagreement over Columbia is really a dispute about economic priorities.
Pelosi is using the Columbia issue to highlight the fact that the Bush administration doesn’t want to do anything to help people who are currently struggling. Pelosi believes that the House’s attention should be focused on the economic problems here at home, while Bush is more interested in trade agreements that would help continue the export dependent economy that helps people at the top, while leaving the rest of us behind.
Transcript of Bush’s Radio Address: