Sunday marked the three-year anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement (FTA). The signing provided a tangible signal of U.S. support for the U.S.-Colombia relationship broadly, and, more specifically, for job creation in the United States through export expansion to a large and growing Latin American economy. On strategic, foreign policy, counter-narcotics, and economic grounds, the deal appeared to be a no-brainer for the United States to conclude. It still does. Unfortunately, that’s not how many policy and interest group advocates see it, raising one objection after another in an attempt to derail the agreement.
And derail it they have. Despite its many advantages, and the fact that our market is already open to Colombian products through unilateral trade preference programs while theirs remains closed to ours, the agreement remains stuck on high center, without any action taken until Colombia reaches some undefined, and perhaps indefinable, level of development and progress. Such an approach is unjustifiable, given the dramatic, sustained progress that Colombia has already made in virtually every area. Equally importantly, U.S. actions have been strategically shortsighted, as many across Latin America—friends and foes alike—take note of the way that we continue to treat an erstwhile friend and ally.