Congress chooses to delay FTA

Published 12:51 pm Monday, April 14, 2008

By Staff
At a time when our national economy is struggling with sky-rocketing gas prices and a slowing job market, the House Democratic majority chose to indefinitely delay the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a bill that would make it easier for American businesses and workers to compete globally.
In an unprecedented move, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought a rules change to prevent an up-or-down vote on the agreement and stop consideration of the bill.
As established by the Trade Act of 1974, Congress has a maximum of 90 legislative days to vote on a trade agreement once the president sends it to the Congress.
Last week, however, the House majority voted to remove the so-called “fast-track” requirement, effectively changing the law under which trade agreements are considered.
Since 1991, Congress has allowed Colombian products virtually duty-free access to the U.S. market; however, U.S. products delivered to the Colombian market face stiff tariffs.
During this time, U.S. workers and business have paid over $1 billion in tariffs to sell products in the Colombian market while Colombian workers and businesses have paid almost nothing to sell in the U.S.
Currently, only 2.7 percent of American exports to Colombia are duty-free compared to the more than 99 percent of Colombian goods entering the American markets without any tariffs.
According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, “America's trade with Colombia reached $18 billion in 2007, making Colombia our fourth largest trading partner in Latin America and our largest export market for U.S. agriculture products in South America.”
Since 1991, Congress has voted to give Colombia and other Andean countries one-way duty-free access to the U.S. market. This problem was created by an act of Congress, and Congress should act to remedy it.
Unfortunately, instead of allowing an up-or-down vote on the bipartisan trade agreement, Speaker Pelosi chose to change the rules and use the FTA as a means to gain leverage for some of her own priorities in this election year.
This partisan stunt hurts American workers, farmers, and businesses by denying them access to new markets. This trade agreement deserves an up-or-down vote.
My staff and I work for you.  If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721.
Bonner is a member of the house of representatives. He can be reached by visiting his website at bonner.house.gov.