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.