President Bush stumps for U.S.-Colombia FTA approval
President Bush, in his final year in office, hopes to leave his mark on South America by persuading Congress to approve the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement.
Bush told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington Wednesday that an FTA with Colombia would go a long way to help the South American country’s economy, as well as assist in the fight against the terrorist organization FARC and socialist influences from Venezuela.
“There is no clearer sign of our support than a free trade agreement,” Bush said. “This agreement would help create new jobs in Colombia, which would make it harder to recruit people to violence and terrorism and drug trafficking. The agreement would signal to the region that America’s commitment to free markets and free people is unshakable.”
Bush warned that for Congress to reject the FTA with Colombia “would validate antagonists in Latin America, who would say that America cannot be trusted to stand by its friends.
“We would cripple our influence in the region, and make other nations less likely to cooperate with us in the future. We would betray one of our closest friends in our own backyard,” he said.
He also noted that the FTA with Colombia would level the playing field between U.S. and Colombian exporters. Currently, U.S. exporters are assessed an average 35 percent tariff, compared to no tariffs on most U.S.-bound goods from Colombia.
Bush made clear to the Hispanic Chamber meeting attendees that he opposed what some Democrats are calling a needed “timeout” from trade.
“In the 21st century, a timeout from trade would be a timeout from growth, a timeout from jobs, and a timeout from good results,” he said. “And retreating from the opportunities of the global economy would be a reckless mistake that our country cannot afford.”
He added: “I understand supporting free trade agreements is not politically easy. There are a lot of special interest groups that are willing to spend a lot of money to make somebody’s life miserable when it comes to supporting free trade agreements. But I believe leadership requires people rising above this empty, hollow political rhetoric. If you’re committed to multilateral diplomacy, you cannot support unilateral withdraw from trade agreements.”