Pelosi Kills Colombian Free Trade Agreement

Rick Moran
The Democrats are now an officially protectionist party.

That much was made clear when Speaker Nancy Pelosi changed the rules of the House to avoid being forced to bring the Colombian Free Trade Agreement to a vote:

The Colombia trade pact was signed in 2006 and renegotiated last year to accommodate Democratic demands for tougher labor and environmental standards. Even after more than 250 consultations with Democrats, and further concessions, including promises to spend more on domestic unemployment insurance, the deal remained stalled in Congress.

Apparently the problem was that Democrats kept getting their way. So on Monday, President Bush submitted the bill to Congress over liberal protests, which, under a bargain between Congress and the White House for trade promotion authority, mandated an up-or-down vote within 90 days.

Today Ms. Pelosi will make an ex post facto change to House rules to avoid the required vote, withdrawing from the timetable and thus relegating the Colombia deal to a perhaps permanent limbo. Democrats say it would have failed anyway, but at least a vote during the next three months would have forced them to show the courage of their protectionist convictions. Instead, they chose to shelve the bill in an election year while paying off organized labor and other antitrade yahoos.

The gambit is especially humiliating for Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, a free-trader who has been trying to strike a deal with the Administration but keeps getting rolled by Ms. Pelosi.
Objections by organized labor revolve around the fact that there is no more murderous place in the world for union organizers than Colombia. The right wing Colombian death squads believe that anyone who is pro union is also pro FARC or pro-communist. The paramilitaries target these organizers and have killed 17 in the last few years.

While making a good point, labor refuses to acknowledge the fact that the situation has dramatically improved over the last 6 months with the Colombian military on the offensive against both FARC and the death squads. This has brought hope that the civil war can be brought to an end and Colombia granted a chance to become a close trading partner with the US.

The fact is, Democrats killed this agreement because they want to roll back free trade agreements across the board. Quite simply, this is madness. For every job they "save" (a dubious proposition), 3 jobs will be lost as a result of reduced exports and imports as nations bump up tarrifs and protectionism becomes the norm.

The Journal is right to take the Democrats to task for not having the guts to show their anti-free trade side to the voters. That's because upwards of 60% generally support free trade - as long as the playing field is level.

Trade may become something of a campaign issue this year with McCain coming out for free trade while the Democrats become obstructionists. It should be interesting to see who the people support.
 
The Democrats are now an officially protectionist party.

That much was made clear when Speaker Nancy Pelosi changed the rules of the House to avoid being forced to bring the Colombian Free Trade Agreement to a vote:

The Colombia trade pact was signed in 2006 and renegotiated last year to accommodate Democratic demands for tougher labor and environmental standards. Even after more than 250 consultations with Democrats, and further concessions, including promises to spend more on domestic unemployment insurance, the deal remained stalled in Congress.

Apparently the problem was that Democrats kept getting their way. So on Monday, President Bush submitted the bill to Congress over liberal protests, which, under a bargain between Congress and the White House for trade promotion authority, mandated an up-or-down vote within 90 days.

Today Ms. Pelosi will make an ex post facto change to House rules to avoid the required vote, withdrawing from the timetable and thus relegating the Colombia deal to a perhaps permanent limbo. Democrats say it would have failed anyway, but at least a vote during the next three months would have forced them to show the courage of their protectionist convictions. Instead, they chose to shelve the bill in an election year while paying off organized labor and other antitrade yahoos.

The gambit is especially humiliating for Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, a free-trader who has been trying to strike a deal with the Administration but keeps getting rolled by Ms. Pelosi.
Objections by organized labor revolve around the fact that there is no more murderous place in the world for union organizers than Colombia. The right wing Colombian death squads believe that anyone who is pro union is also pro FARC or pro-communist. The paramilitaries target these organizers and have killed 17 in the last few years.

While making a good point, labor refuses to acknowledge the fact that the situation has dramatically improved over the last 6 months with the Colombian military on the offensive against both FARC and the death squads. This has brought hope that the civil war can be brought to an end and Colombia granted a chance to become a close trading partner with the US.

The fact is, Democrats killed this agreement because they want to roll back free trade agreements across the board. Quite simply, this is madness. For every job they "save" (a dubious proposition), 3 jobs will be lost as a result of reduced exports and imports as nations bump up tarrifs and protectionism becomes the norm.

The Journal is right to take the Democrats to task for not having the guts to show their anti-free trade side to the voters. That's because upwards of 60% generally support free trade - as long as the playing field is level.

Trade may become something of a campaign issue this year with McCain coming out for free trade while the Democrats become obstructionists. It should be interesting to see who the people support.