This will be very tough to win, but with one year to go the current Administration House has correctly decided that it might as well try.
Washington has already negotiated a free trade agreement with Bogota that would be quite favorable for our industry. We presently run a strong two-way electrical equipment trade surplus and the elimination of remaining foreign tariffs would likely improve the figures even further. (We support the other two negotiated-but-not-yet-ratified FTAs with South Korea and Panama for the same reasons.) NEMA staff has already been there a few times, and it is one of the Latin American trading partners that we are seeking to more deeply engage with — on issues such as standardization, certification, anti-counterfeiting, energy efficiency and environmentally-conscious design — as part of our new joint initiative with the U.S. Commerce Department.
Yet many on the Hill are explicitly opposed, and not just because the country's very name stirs up violent images of drug lords and guerilla wars. Notably, it has had a poor record on labor rights, with numerous union leaders having been attacked or murdered. Nevertheless, particularly due to the leadership of President Uribe and the U.S.' own "Plan Colombia", it has made tremendous progress towards becoming a more normal and prosperous place in recent years, and the free trade agreement would enable it to advance even further. Little wonder then that an important part of the Administration's strategy is to get as many members of Congress as possible down to Colombia to see the reality for themselves.
Still, free trade is as politically unpopular as ever and it is an election year. NEMA will be lobbying hard, but success is hardly a certainty.