Why the NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreement Will Fail to Benefit Colombia

October 21, 2011  |   Economics & Trade

Why the NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreement Will Fail to Benefit Colombia

Despite evidence of limited economic welfare benefits and significant social costs, Latin American countries have been signing and ratifying trade treaties with the United States since the early 1990s.  This week, the long-stalled treaties with Colombia and Panama were ratified by the U.S. congress and signed by the President.  Like other trade treaties, these were based on the same template that has been the basis for U.S. trade policy since NAFTA. In the case of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (Colombia FTA), promises from the government of President Juan Manuel Santos to better protect trade unionists pressured enough reluctant Democrats to vote in favor of the agreement.  Over 4,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia in the past 20 years, mostly by right-wing paramilitaries with links to the government, making Colombia the most dangerous country in the world to support collective bargaining rights. Colombian labor union leaders have rejected government claims that human rights and trade unionist protection has improved, denigrating symbolic gestures aimed at securing U.S. ratification of the  agreement, which they rightly claim will help multinational companies over Colombian workers. In addition to doubts that the Colombian government will live up to its promises vis-à-vis the trade unionists, the gains from trade that Colombia can expect once the agreement is in force are ambiguous at best.  When the gains to some sectors (e.g. cut flowers, leather goods, seafood, textiles, certain services) are measured against the losses to other sectors (e.g. rice, corn, poultry, communications technology),  along with fiscal

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U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?

September 25, 2010  |   Economics & Trade Politics and Policy

The U.S. economy and the manufacturing sector in particular, face both short-term and long-term challenges.  There is debate about whether government can or should play a role in addressing those challenges, and if so, what are the fiscal, industrial, regulatory, and trade policies that would benefit the stakeholders, which essentially include all U.S. citizens in one way or another. I should acknowledge at the outset a bias toward thoughtfully considered government interventions to guide the economy and trade in ways that benefit American workers and allow them to participate in the gains that accrue from their labor.  There are economic reasons for my bias that have nothing to do with either socialist or altruistic impulse.  That bias in no way means that I favor protectionism or a retreat from global trade, or that government intervention in the economy is always desirable, but there are, I believe, issues and stakeholders that get too little consideration and solutions to structural economic problems that are given short shrift in the name of conservative ideological orthodoxy. There is ample evidence that without adequate and well-designed regulatory intervention in domestic and global markets, capital and political power tends to migrate upward and become concentrated at the top of the economic ladder. We see that phenomenon in country after country, most recently in the U.S.  Concentrated wealth becomes problematic when it undermines social cohesion and a sense of shared purpose.  The wealth/income gap is at the core of social and political stress and instability in most

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U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?

August 16, 2010  |   Economics & Trade

U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?  By Paul Crist, Aug. 14, 2010 The U.S. economy and the manufacturing sector in particular, face both short-term and long-term challenges.  There is debate about whether government can or should play a role in addressing those challenges, and if so, what are the fiscal, industrial, regulatory, and trade policies that would benefit the stakeholders, which essentially include all U.S. citizens in one way or another. I should acknowledge at the outset a bias toward thoughtfully considered government interventions to guide the economy and trade in ways that benefit American workers and allow them to participate in the gains that accrue from their labor.  There are economic reasons for my bias that have nothing to do with either socialist or altruistic impulse.  That bias in no way means that I favor protectionism or a retreat from global trade, or that government intervention in the economy is always desirable, but there are, I believe, issues and stakeholders that get too little consideration and solutions to structural economic problems that are given short shrift in the name of conservative ideological orthodoxy. There is ample evidence that without adequate and well-designed regulatory intervention in domestic and global markets, capital and political power tends to migrate upward and become concentrated at the top of the economic ladder. We see that phenomenon in country after country, most recently in the U.S.  Concentrated wealth becomes problematic when it undermines social cohesion and a sense of

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