It started almost five years ago with free trade agreements (FTAs) reached between the Bush Administration and the governments of Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Unfortunately, the then-Democrat controlled House allowed only the FTA with Peru to be approved. The other three were abandoned.
Now, with the approval by Congress of the three remaining FTAs, some compelling benefits will fall on the U.S.:
- Colombia has improved. Much of the delay on approving an FTA with Colombia was a result of the country’s negative record on human rights. But the Colombian government has thrown support behind the judicial branch and those who investigate human rights abuses, and it has created a new law that aids victims of the country’s civil war. With the FTA, greater strides toward development and stability are likely.
- Latin American allies. With Venezuela on one side and Ecuador on the other, Colombia, as well as nearby Panama, is strategically important to the U.S. in tempering the anti-U.S. attitude in the region. The FTAs with Colombia and Panama are important tools in ensuring productive, cooperative relationships between the U.S. and these Latin American countries.
- Boost U.S. markets. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, within a year U.S. exports to Colombia alone will increase by at least an estimated $1 billion. U.S. goods that currently face high tariffs in Panama will become more competitive. U.S. companies themselves will be more competitive as new opportunities are opened to them. This means that nearly 250,000 new jobs will be created. While that might not seem like enough to put a dent in unemployment figures, consider that 400,000 jobs could have been lost if the FTAs had not been approved.
Despite long delays and tedious critiques, the FTAs with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea will finally be given the opportunity to make some much-needed changes in the U.S. economy and in U.S. relations with Latin America.
Jen Gieselman is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. Click here for more information on interning at Heritage.