Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Agreeing with Baker

The Monk generally dislikes James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State under Pres. Bush (pere) and perhaps the most anti-Israel head of the State Department since the formation of that nation in 1948. But when the old bugger is right, he's right.

Some wisdom from his op-ed on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which the Democrats (and Big Labor) have worked to scuttle despite how it would actually aid America's exports by granting tariff-free access to the Colombian market (90%+ of Colombian exports to the US are not tariffed under existing agreements).

First, the economic reasons to approve the accord:

The economic arguments that favor the agreement with Colombia are clear. Today, approximately 90% of Colombian exports come to the U.S. duty free under the Andean Trade Preferences Act and other agreements. President George H.W. Bush signed it as a way to counter the drug trade. By increasing trade, the law has helped create almost 600,000 jobs in Colombia, and these jobs are the best defense against the narco-traffickers and the terrorist networks they support.

While the Andean measure is an important and necessary pillar in our efforts to stem the flow of illegal drugs, it also means that American companies and workers do not play on a level playing field. We can change that by passing the Colombian agreement. Once enacted, over 80% of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia would immediately become duty-free, and all remaining tariffs would be eliminated within a decade.

Second, the political reason:

Members of the U.S. Congress should also consider the national security arguments that favor this free-trade agreement. Colombia has long been a valued ally in a region that is increasingly becoming adverse toward our interests. Bolivia and Ecuador are to one degree or another antagonistic toward the U.S., and Venezuela is outright hostile.

Compare that to Colombia, an openly supportive, long-time ally that has long partnered with the U.S. on economic and security matters. Colombia was there when we needed an ally in that region. The backbone of the U.S.-Colombia security relationship, Plan Colombia, was started by President Bill Clinton and continued by President George W. Bush. Since Plan Colombia was conceived in 1998, the Colombian government has worked closely with the United States to prosecute the war on drugs.

It has done so while constantly battling the so-called "Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia" (FARC). This group is no quaint band of pseudo-revolutionaries. Simply put, it is a terrorist organization – so classified by both the European Union and the U.S. government – and one that receives a significant amount of its financing from the drug cartels.

If the contents of a recently-seized computer once owned by Raul Reyes, a FARC leader that Colombia recently killed, are verified as accurate, the world would have incriminating evidence that Venezuela and Ecuador have been clandestinely supporting the FARC.

Does America want to allow Hugo Chávez to remake the Andean region in his image? While this matter is currently being investigated, it is clear that Chávez and his allies are already destabilizing the region. Both Ecuador and Venezuela, two of Colombia's biggest trading partners, have brought trade between them and Colombia to a virtual standstill.

Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are siding with a US enemy over a US ally. It's ultimately that simple.

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