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Clinton: Latin FTA’s Add Billions

The FTAs with Colombia and Panama, along with renewal of the Andean Trade Preferences, will add $8 billion to the US economy.



One of our top goals is to complete free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. Now, I’m not talking out of school when I say that free trade agreements always raise hard questions and they spark a lot of healthy debate in our country. But today, I am happy to report we are making great progress on both agreements. We have worked with our Panamanian and Colombian partners to address key concerns and forge broader bipartisan support in the Congress, just as we did with the South Korean Free Trade Agreement. Panama passed important new laws on labor rights and tax transparency. With Colombia, we have established an action plan to address concerns about labor rights, violence, and impunity. And Colombia has already taken important steps to implement this plan, and we are working hard to execute the next phase by June 15. Thanks to President Santos’s extraordinary leadership, I have no doubt we will meet that deadline.


So this year – early this year – we intend to send Congress the legislation that would implement all three pending FTAs. (Applause.) In addition, we will be sending our broader trade agenda, including renewal of the Andean Trade Preferences and the Trade Adjustment Assistance. And with these steps, we believe we will be well on our way to reaching our goal.


Now, I think this is good news for the people of all our countries. In the United States alone, these three agreements – Colombia, Panama, the Andean Trade Preference renewal – could add more than $10 billion to our economic output, and that would translate into some 70,000 new jobs for American workers. And by adding Colombia and Panama to our existing FTAs, we will create an unbroken chain of economic integration from the start of the Rockies in Canada all the way to the end of the Andes.


As we move forward on these free trade agreements, we’re also making other progress in other aspects of our economic relationships. With Mexico, thankfully, we have adopted a coordinated action plan with concrete steps that we believe will make the border both more secure and more efficient, and we are successfully resolving our differences over the cargo trucks that cross our border. Under the trucking plan that we’re now finalizing, we will make it safer, cheaper, and easier to move goods across our common border, and Mexico will remove the retaliatory tariffs they placed on more than $2 billion of our goods.


And in the weeks since President Obama’s visit to Brazil, the array of agreements he announced—on infrastructure for the World Cup and the Olympics, on aviation and maritime transport, on biofuels, R&D, and so much more—is spurring a serious acceleration in our economic relationship.


Second, beyond expanding trade and economic opportunity, we are building flexible multilateral partnerships to help us address the strategic challenges we face. Pathways to Prosperity and the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas are promoting inclusive growth and sustainable energy security. Mexico’s leadership in Cancun late last year was absolutely crucial in putting the world on a path toward greater cooperation to confront climate change, and it was a Mexican proposal for the Green Fund that will serve as the vehicle for assisting developing countries in meeting their climate needs. (…)


So we’ve accomplished a great deal on all of our priorities, but there is one final point I wish to make at perhaps the risk of being less than welcome. Let’s admit we face real shortcomings in the region. Now, many people say that this is the Latin American decade, and I agree. There’s a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to.


But let’s be honest; there are still weak education systems, there are still weak democratic institutions, there are still inadequate fiscal policies, there are still too few people of means paying their fair share of taxes to their government in order to support services for those who will otherwise be mired in generational poverty, and there is too much violence. If we don’t face up to these challenges, we could waste this historic opportunity. But I have a lot of confidence that we will, because if one looks at what has worked in those countries that are leading the change, it’s because they’ve made these tough decisions.


Hillary Clinton is the US Secretary of State. This column is based on an excerpt of her remarks at the 41st Washington Conference on the Americas organized by the Council of the Americas in Washington, D.C., May 11, 2011.


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