Our Colombia Free Trade Agreement editorial today (which, as with the Joe Lieberman piece, you should be able to tell I wrote) was based in so many sources that I thought it would be nice to give you a version with links here. So here you go:
Free Trade pact
WHAT DO The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times all have in common? They all agree with The State: All say Congress should pass the Colombian Free Trade Agreement.
“Pass the Pact,” says The Post. “Seal the deal,” says the L.A. Times. The Journal says the pact offers President-elect Barack Obama a “Lame Duck Opportunity” — tell Congress to agree to a deal with President Bush to link a Detroit bailout to passage of this and other free trade agreements before the end of the year: “U.S. business and the rest of the world would applaud…. President Bush could do the heavy lifting.”
Perhaps most impressive of all — it’s certainly caused some buzz in the blogosphere — is this opening sentence of the New York Times piece: “We don’t say it all that often, but President Bush is right: Congress should pass the Colombian free-trade agreement now.”
That puts The Times, uncharacteristically as it notes, on the opposite side of liberal Democrats in Congress — and in disagreement with Mr. Obama’s stated position. But as the broad consensus among editorial boards indicates, pretty much any one who looks at this issue who was not recently elected with the help of Big Labor sees the need to pass the pact.
Why? It’s common sense. Most Colombian goods already flow into the United States duty-free. This agreement would open Colombia to U.S. products, made by U.S. workers.
It also would, perhaps most importantly, solidify our relationship with a loyal ally in a region where we have too few friends. Not passing it would give the back of our hand to a country roughly surrounded by nations ruled by people who mean the United States ill.
It’s ironic that Democrats would oppose this agreement while Mr. Bush supports it. As The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote in a column that ran on our op-ed page in April: “For seven years, Democrats have rightfully complained that President Bush has gratuitously antagonized the world, exasperating our allies and eroding America’s standing and influence.
“But now the Democrats are doing the same thing on trade.”
So what’s the argument against the pact? Opponents say the Colombian government has been complicit in violence against union leaders in that country. Some point to recent indictments of top officials for colluding with right-wing paramilitaries who have terrorized unionists. But such indictments actually argue for the agreement, demonstrating how President Alvaro Uribe’s government has cracked down on such violence. Last year, violence against union members dropped below the rate for the general public.
Some, ironically echoing an argument used by John McCain in a different context, say the agreement should not pass this year because Sen. Obama was elected while opposing it and “elections have consequences.” But as we noted in endorsing Sen. McCain, “Few will cast their ballots on the basis of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement,” and indeed, some who disagreed with our endorsement took us to task for even bringing up a topic so irrelevant to their preference for Sen. Obama.
The president-elect, and congressional Democrats, are perfectly free to re-examine their positions on this issue. They should do so, and listen to the many independent voices that say they should pass this pact now.