GOP Lays into Obama After Canada-Colombia

FTA Beats U.S. Version to the Punch

A free trade agreement (FTA) between Canada and Colombia became effective on Monday, while a similar FTA pending between the United States and Colombia since 2006 has yet to be sent to Congress for approval.

The completion of the Canada-Colombia FTA sparked a flurry of statements from Republican lawmakers, who argued that the agreement, and the still-pending status of its American counterpart, will put U.S. companies at a severe competitive disadvantage.

"While Canada's trade agreement with Colombia goes into force today, American exporters are put at a competitive disadvantage because the Obama Administration has yet to submit our own trade pact to Congress for a vote," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, whose jurisdiction includes international trade. "Our bilateral accord with Colombia, which was signed years ago, would spur new job growth and shore up a vital regional alliance. There is no reason for continued delay and it is past time the President submit our pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress."

As Hatch noted, U.S. FTAs are pending with Panama and South Korea, in addition to Colombia. Lawmakers have criticized the lack of approved FTAs since their signature, arguing that there's no real reason to keep them from going into force and ultimately making exporting to these countries much more affordable. "The longer this Administration delays the further our economy falls behind," Hatch added.

Congressional leaders in the House also took the opportunity to hit the president on his perceived foot-dragging on the FTAs. "Our trade agreement with Colombia was signed in 2006, years before Canada and Colombia even began their negotiations," said Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "In the meantime, our share of Colombia's imports of key grains fell, and the trend will only accelerate as Canada and other countries deepen their trade ties with Colombia. Once again, I urgently call on the president to send the job-creating trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress without further delay."

The International Trade Commission (ITC) estimates that the tariff reductions in the U.S.-Colombia FTA would expand exports of U.S. goods by more than $1.1 billion, and support thousands of additional jobs. Once the FTA enters into force, more than 80% of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia will become duty-free, eliminating the over $3.5 billion in tariffs that have been imposed on U.S. exports to Colombia since the agreement was signed.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer