Trade seems to be on the agenda in the United States again. What is Latin America doing to prepare?
By Alfonso Cuéllar*
Trade is back in the driver’s seat in Washington, and Latin America had better pay attention. With Republicans gaining control of the Senate and padding their majority in the House, the likelihood that an agreement can be reached in the two trans-oceanic trade negotiations grew tenfold.
During the last few years, the Obama administration has been in parallel talks with 11 Trans-Pacific nations and the European Union. These discussions have been hindered by political uncertainty emanating from D.C., and in particular opposition from key Democratic lawmakers who have refused to provide the President with trade promotion authority (TPA). This is what used to be called “fast-track” and, in a nutshell, guarantees that any agreement signed by the U.S. government, cannot be changed by Congress. Without this assurance, any congressman could try to alter the language in order to favor his or her constituency. No country wants to have to renegotiate terms with 535 members of Congress.
The results of the November 5 elections make this situation doubtful. The Republican leadership, beginning with the incoming chairman of Senate Finance Committee, Senator Orin Hatch, understands the need to approve TPA quickly in order to jumpstart the negotiations with the other nations.
Ironically, given the heated rhetoric that has characterized Washington recently, both …
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