BY CHRONICLE STAFF
Leading industry groups are asking the U.S. Congress to approve the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, which President George W. Bush submitted to lawmakers today. Congress now has 90 days to either approve or reject the Colombia FTA.
“The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is a solid and beneficial agreement that will expand exports of U.S. products and strengthen U.S. economic relations with another important partner in Latin America,” Stephen J. Collins, president of the Automotive Trade Policy Council (ATPC), said in a statement today. “Colombia already has open access to the U.S. market and this Free Trade Agreement will open their market. Now that the President has sent the agreement to Congress for a vote, we hope that both the House and Senate will pass it by strong margins.”
The ATPC represents US automakers Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation.
The Colombia FTA will help American farmers, who currently pay high tariffs on exports to Colombia, argues Catherine Bennett, NFTC's Senior Vice President. "From a commercial standpoint, Colombia is an important market for U.S. goods and services, but currently our farmers and our manufacturers pay costly tariffs on products exported to Colombia," she said in a statement.” Though many products from Colombia already enjoy duty-free access to the U.S. market under existing preferences programs, the United States does not enjoy such benefits. Congress, however, has an opportunity to change the factors in this lopsided equation by approving the trade agreement."
The Coalition of Service Industries (CSI) also supports the agreement. "The agreement promotes U.S. economic and commercial goals; it supports our human and labor rights objectives; and it serves U.S. geostrategic interests in the region," CSI President Bob Vastine said in a statement. "For these reasons, we believe it unquestionably merits Congressional approval."
Services such as banking and insurance, telecommunications, express delivery, and information technology will benefit from the Colombia FTA, John Goyer, CSI's Vice President of International Trade Negotiations & Investment, writes in Latin Business Chronicle this week. (See Colombia FTA Promotes Services Trade).
Meanwhile, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) also supports swift passage of the agreement. "The FTA eliminates the high tariffs on American exports," CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said in a statement. "Colombia's goods enter our marketplace duty-free under existing laws. The Colombia Free Trade Agreement will level the playing field by eliminating these tariffs, giving American companies and their workers a chance to compete."
Key Democratic lawmakers - including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - have expressed opposition to the free trade agreement. Others are under pressure from U.S. labor groups such as the AFL-CIO to vote against the pact. But NFTC President Bill Reinsch urged all lawmakers to keep an open mind and vote on the Colombia FTA on its own merits. "As members [of Congress] begin reviewing the legislation, we encourage them to evaluate it on its merits and cast votes that reflect that thoughtful deliberation," he said in a statement.
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