Why do they insist on the FTA?
[Translated by Steve Fake, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.]
The U.S. government indefinitely postponed the process of the free trade agreement (FTA), and the expired Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) has not yet been extended. In the best of cases, should an extension be granted, the approval would only be for a few more weeks. The Santos government, which had so many hopes in the treaty, is thrown into confusion and its officials make rash statements - they would wait another year, until there are no tears left to shed, and attribute this temporary failure to bickering over minor issues between Democrats and Republicans.
In reality, the Colombian government is not correctly interpreting what is happening. The global crisis has crippled the world's free trade agenda and the United States, suffering from the highest unemployment in decades, is leaning toward protectionism and only wants treaties that involve substantial new revenue. Obama wants to resume commercial enterprise, but at the same time protect its alliance with U.S. trade unions that are vital to his future re-election.
The echoes of the humanitarian catastrophe seen during the Uribe government still resonate in Washington, which knows that Santos played a key role in the previous government. They have said repeatedly that statements of good intentions are insufficient - they want visible evidence of change in the situation. The Obama administration's recent concern over criminal gangs across the country shows that it will find a new pretext to strengthen its intervention.
The problems of the Middle East are extremely serious for the Empire, and they want bipartisan agreement on their next steps; this is top priority for U.S. foreign policy.
The idea that ATPDEA represents unilateral advantages for Colombia has been peddled widely in Washington. The failure of the drug war has deprived this mechanism of credibility for U.S. rulers, who do not appear effective because trafficking continues and increases. Now the hawks ask that Colombia grant new benefits to balance ATPDEA, and therefore have spoken of a possible renegotiation of the FTA, which even the most obsequious supporters of the treaty have rejected, as if we still had something to lose.
In reality, it will be necessary to reopen the debate. In time even the unions more favorable towards free trade said the FTA had been poorly negotiated. The failures of this agreement should lead Colombia to the conclusion that it should completely rethink its contents. Colombia has so many disadvantages in its relationship with the U.S. that it should not accept any trade agreement unless it grants clear preferences to Colombia, which protect its domestic market, safeguard its options for industrialization, and do not chain it to the export of raw goods.
What is at stake is not simply the FTA and the ATPDEA, but the model of development. If the government continues betting on the free trade model and forgoes the strengthening of the domestic economy, we will have, together, all the disadvantages of the FTA, without even the illusory carrot of access to "world's largest market."
* Recalca brings together the main social and union organizations in the country to coordinate strategies of education, outreach and mobilization against the FTA and the economic model promoted by the national government.
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