Glad to see the administration on board with Colombia trade

Some of y’all — those who carry grudges — will recall that one of my reasons for endorsing John McCain in 2008 was that he supported the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. This caused some Obamaphiles to freak out, it just seemed so esoteric to them.

But to me, it was important to cite. First, the large portion of my childhood spent in South America causes me to care more about that part of the world than do most people in this country. I find Yankee indifference to the rest of the hemisphere pretty appalling, frankly. One reason I got into reading British publications years ago was that they actually covered news events in Latin America. Most media in this country do not, for the simple reason that their readers and viewers aren’t interested.

I also saw this as a little-discussed microcosm of a difference in judgment and decision-making with regard to foreign policy in general, one that for me made McCain look better.

I went into why I thought it was important in this post.

Anyway, spin forward more than four years, and I’m pleased to read this piece by Joe Biden in The Wall Street Journal, headlined “The Americas Ascendant.” It begins:

Last week, during a five-day trip through Latin America and the Caribbean, I visited a cut-flower farm outside Bogota, Colombia, an hour’s drive from downtown that would have been impossibly dangerous 10 years ago. Along the way I passed office parks, movie theaters and subdivisions, interspersed with small ranches and family businesses. At the flower farm, one-quarter of the workers are female heads of households. The carnations and roses they were clipping would arrive in U.S. stores within days, duty free.

What I saw on the flower farm was just one sign of the economic blossoming in the year since a U.S. free-trade agreement with Colombia went into force. Over that period, American exports to the country are up 20%…

Yeah, and we could have been enjoying that increase in trade years earlier, had not Sens. Obama and Clinton opposed it, to the gratification of Big Labor.

But hey, welcome aboard. I’m glad the administration gets it now.

I thought it particularly interesting that the vice president focused on the cut-flower trade. So did Nicholas Kristof in an April 24, 2008, piece that had helped focus my attention on the need for the agreement. It began:

BOGOTÁ, Colombia

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. In Latin America, it is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who are seen as the go-it-alone cowboys, by opposing the United States’  free-trade agreement with Colombia….

That piece, too, focused on the cut-flower industry in Colombia. The headline was “Better Roses Than Cocaine.” Indeed.

The vice president today writes,

There is enormous potential—economically, politically and socially—for the U.S. in its relations with countries of the Western Hemisphere. And so the Obama administration has launched the most sustained period of U.S. engagement with the Americas in a long, long time—including the president’s travel to Mexico and Costa Rica last month; my own recent trip to Colombia, Trinidad, and Brazil; Secretary of State Kerry’s participation in the Organization of American States’ annual meeting in Guatemala; the president of Chile’s visit to Washington this week and a planned visit to Washington by the president of Peru. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff arrives in Washington in October for the first state visit of the second term.

As leaders across the region work to lift their citizens out of poverty and to diversify their economies from commodity-led growth, the U.S. believes that the greatest promise—for Americans and for our neighbors—lies in deeper economic integration and openness.growth, the U.S. believes that the greatest promise—for Americans and for our neighbors—lies in deeper economic integration and openness.

I agree. And welcome aboard, Mr. Obama.

4 thoughts on “Glad to see the administration on board with Colombia trade

  1. bud

    This proves that Obama is a pragmatist and is willing to change his mind once all the information is in. John McCain may have been right on this issue in 2008 but he stubbornly clings to long ago discredited foreign affairs issues like he’s currently doing in Syria. We made the right choice in 2008. This is yet another bit of proof for that.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Thanks for responding, Bud.

    See how nobody cares about South America?

    But I do. And I feel bad that I don’t keep up with it as well as I should. In the publications I read every day, there’s just so little. There’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s columns in the WSJ, but they’re all opinion pieces written from the perspective of a member of the WSJ editorial board. I need to see more news from down there.

    I’ve got to start looking at The Guardian and The Economist more. I used to get The Economist, but the paper paid for it, so now I don’t. And I was reading The Guardian on my iPad, but then the free trial ran out…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The iPad, by the way, has reshaped my reading habits.

      I used to take The State and the WSJ (I subscribe to the print publications of both) to breakfast with me in the morning. Now I don’t. I just take the iPad, and I read both of those papers on there, plus the Washington Post, and sometimes the top headlines of the NYT (all I can get for free) and the AP.

      And then, anything else that Twitter or other media refer me to…

  3. Bart

    “This proves that Obama is a pragmatist and is willing to change his mind once all the information is in.”…

    That is total BS.

    The original agreement was negotiated and supported by Bush and signed in 2006 without the support of Obama, Biden, and Hillary. It is a fact that Obama is keeping many of the Bush policies in force, how is it that his support of the Columbia Free Trade Agreement, according to Biden, is an exercise in pragmatism? Now that the trade agreement is bearing fruit, Obama and Biden are more than willing to step forward and take credit. But, if the trade agreement wasn’t working so well, you can bet your a$$ the usual “Blame Bush” speech would be used to its fullest extent.

    The only member of the administration with any credibility on the subject is John Kerry when it comes to the Columbia Free Trade Agreement that was passed in 2005. He actively supported and voted for it, the other three didn’t but are more than willing to enjoy the fruits of another person’s labor, namely Bush.

    And, it seems that when Obama went to his first OAS meeting, his most ardent supporters were the Hugo Chavez contingent, not the American friendly government of Columbia. But hey, the guy is a pragmatist! And John Jennrette still has some underwater property for sale on the coast.


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