BY CHRONICLE STAFF
Despite the indefinite postponement of a congressional vote, the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement may be approved as early as this year, leading experts say. "With a measure good will among the House Leadership, the Bush White House, and the Colombian Government, I think there is still time to find sufficient common ground to approve the FTA by year’s end," says Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue.
Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the
Despite the opposition to the
"If a Democrat is elected in November this actually makes it marginally more likely that it’ll get voted on in a lame duck, and passed," he says. "I know it’s counterintuitive, but the fact is no president, Republican or Democrat, will want to start off their administration with a hemispheric policy burdened by a failed agreement with
However, if a Republican is elected and the Democrats pick up a number of new seats in November, as many are predicting that they will, a lame duck scenario is less likely, Farnsworth argues.
Even if the Colombia FTA is not approved during the lame duck period, it would have to be addressed by the next president, including a Democrat, according to Hakim.
"A new President Obama or Clinton cannot simply ignore the FTA," he says. "It is an agreement that has been signed by the
The new president’s US Trade Representative will have to negotiate with
Credit Suisse analyst Carola Sandy sees no chance of a Colombia FTA approval this year. "It is unlikely, in our view, that the US Congress will discuss this bill this year," she wrote in an analysis last week. "Whether the US-Colombia FTA bill is discussed or not by the U.S. Congress in 2009 will depend on the outcome of the November elections."
Despite the possibility of a Colombia FTA approval this year, leading business groups have blasted the vote last week. "The American Farm Bureau Federation is disappointed with the House Leadership’s decision to remove the timetable for consideration of the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement," the organization said in a statement. This decision will not only place a vote on the agreement in limbo, but it is a direct strike at the
Before the House vote, the Business Roundtable urged lawmakers to vote against delaying the FTA vote. “We are extremely disappointed that the House of Representatives is going to consider taking away the benefits of trade promotion authority for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and strongly urge the House to reject the change,” John Castellani, president of Business Roundtable, said in a statement Wednesday. "The American people expect their elected representatives and leaders to do what is in the national interest. Trade agreements, like the one with
The Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading
Other groups that support the Colombia FTA include the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), which represents 160 of the leading public port authorities in the
According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, passage of the Colombia FTA will result in approximately a $1.1 billion annual increase in
So what does the delay mean for
"A majority of Colombia’s exports to the US already are exempt from duties; therefore, the US Lower House move should have no impact on Colombia’s external accounts in the near term," she believes.
However, the delay may effect foreign direct investment, which has been growing on the expectation of the Colombia FTA being passed. "The FTA was expected to attract more FDI into the country over the long term,"
© Copyright Latin Business Chronicle