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Investor’s Business Daily, August 19, 2008

August 20, 2008

Kudos For Carter

Trade: Never thought we'd say this, but Jimmy Carter finally got something very right. From Plains on Sunday, he urged Congress to pass the free-trade pact with Colombia. Fellow Democrats should take heed.

It was good to see President Carter assuring Colombian President Alvaro Uribe that he'd "prudently but effectively" try and persuade Congress to end its moratorium on free trade with Colombia. On his Web site, Uribe said Carter's help "is going to be very useful."

Along with offshore drilling, Colombia's treaty has languished in Congress without a vote since April. Speaker Nancy Pelosi altered House rules to block a vote — and to advance Big Labor's agenda.

Although the Carter Center called the Uribe meeting a private visit and said Carter made no public statement, Carter's stance echoes one of the few bright spots of his failed 1976-1980 presidency — his willingness to confront protectionists and help local markets.

In 1977, he fought off shoe tariffs and lashed out at special interests. He's since been a booster for Atlanta as a center for Latin trade, a savvy thing since U.S.-Latin trade grew 19.7% in 2007. So, it's not out of character for Carter to help on the Colombia pact.

But it's still worth noting because he's going against the trend.

Big Labor's cash controls the Democrat-led Congress, leaving many Democrats cowed on free trade. So, there's probably little political gain for Carter to support free trade.

It also may be a sign the Democratic Party is softening on free trade, too. Much, after all, has changed since Pelosi's roadblock.

• In July, Colombia made a daring rescue of three U.S. hostages held by terrorists, putting its own men in harm's way to save ours.

• Colombian troops also captured a massive trove of intelligence from a terrorist leader's computer last March, and shared the bounty with us. Its friendship isn't in question.

Colombia's now the U.S.' fastest-growing Latin American trading partner. A Latin Business Chronicle analysis shows $12.2 billion in U.S.-Colombian trade in the first half, up 54% from the same period last year. But U.S. exporters still pay duties, undermining the market. Free trade will fix that.

• Meanwhile, Russia's invasion of Georgia sent a warning that unprotected U.S. allies are easy targets for predators. Free trade also would cut the power of Venezuela's petrodollars by helping Colombians and others in the region to grow more prosperous.

Carter hasn't been right on many things, but he's on target on free trade for Colombia and others in Latin America. He deserves some credit for finally doing something useful.


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