As noted before on this page, many on Capitol Hill are reluctant to vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, although the arguments in favor of approval far outweigh excuses for inaction or refusal. President Bush made the case in his State of the Union address and Cabinet secretaries are leading delegations of House members to Colombia every weekend to ask tough questions and see the facts for themselves. Meanwhile, some say they cannot support the agreement with Colombia because they are concerned about its record of anti-union violence.
What strains credulity is that many of these waffling members have had no problem voting to maintain preference programs for Bogota that allow duty-free access to the U.S. market, all while violence levels in Colombia were much higher than they are today. Now, don't get me wrong: The trade preference programs are well and good and Colombia is still a dangerous place (but so is Washington, DC, where I live). But now that violence in Colombia has come down — and it's apparently safer to be a union rep there than to be a regular Juan on the street — why can't Congress vote to open the Colombian market, eliminate their tariffs on U.S. goods and level the playing field for U.S. exporters?
Rejecting the trade agreement — or refusing to take a vote on it — will do nothing to save lives in Colombia or save jobs in the U.S.