Trying Colombia’s Patience on Trade

Our friends in Colombia have been waiting more than four years for the U.S. government to consider a pending free-trade agreement between our two countries. According to an interview this week with Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, Gabriel Silva, Colombians are “losing patience” with their American ally.

The frustration in Colombia is understandable. The agreement was signed in November 2006, but it has been locked in the cupboard since then by labor unions and their congressional allies who claim the Colombian government has not done enough to curb violence in that country against union members.

My Cato colleague Juan Carlos Hidalgo and I examine the agreement and the claims against it in a new Cato Free Trade Bulletin, “Trade Agreement Would Promote U.S. Exports and Colombian Civil Society.” We found that on the commercial side the agreement would deliver the “level playing field” the politicians always tell us they want. Once implemented, it would open the door to an additional $1 billion in U.S. exports.

As for violence against union members, we report the latest evidence that the number of union members killed is down dramatically in recent years, and prosecutions are up even more sharply. Contrary to the story told by critics of the agreement, the murder rate among union members in Colombia is actually far lower than the rate among the general population.

You can read the full bulletin here.