10 Years of U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Proves Why We Need an Ambitious Trade Agenda
Urging President Biden to end his trade moratorium and pursue an ambitious trade agenda, Ways and Means Republican Leader Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) participated in a panel at the Washington International Trade Association (WITA) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade agreement. The agreement, which went into force in 2012, has tripled U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia and benefitted both countries.
CLICK HERE to watch Rep. Brady’s remarks.
“I believe in free trade. I think it’s the greatest economic freedom we have. The ability to buy and sell and compete anywhere in the world, with as little government interference as possible, can lift not just people up and communities up, but whole countries up.
“We ought to be doing more free trade. I sometimes get frustrated that America is not leading on trade today. I think we’re at a time where we need to be leading both at the WTO and in the regions around the world, with bilateral agreements.
“Today is a good reminder, on the 10th anniversary, we need to be doing more to be re-thinking our relationship and new opportunities with Colombia and America because they’re right there in front of us.”
- Free Trade Benefits America: Since the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement went into force in 2012, U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia have tripled from $1.1 billion to $3.4 billion in 2021. Corn exports alone exceeded $1 billion, and we have seen significant growth in our exports of soybeans, pork, and wheat. Colombia purchases approximately half of its agriculture imports from the United States.
- The World is Noticing Biden’s Trade Moratorium: This week, Politico reported that Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso is urging the Biden Administration to drop its trade moratorium, noting that the lack of new trade agreements is making it harder for Latin American countries to recover from the pandemic.
- There is Bipartisan Opportunity on Trade: Congress must act to renew the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) and Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) — two historically bipartisan trade programs that protect U.S. workers and small businesses. Unfortunately, Democrats have delayed renewal of these vital trade programs, putting high-paying jobs in every state at risk.
Rep. Brady’s full remarks as delivered are below:
Thank you, Ileana. First, I want to thank WITA. Ken, thank you for hosting this. This day was too important to overlook. This is an important agreement for both countries and both regions. And so much work was put in – hard work, Ileana – thank you for your leadership on Foreign Affairs on this as well. Thank you for hosting me.
It’s an honor to be here among friends – Ambassador Gomez and Ambassador Eissenstat. It was wonderful to visit with the Vice President and the Trade Minister and Ambassador Barco – it’s great to see you as well.
Today we do celebrate the 10th anniversary of our free trade agreement with Colombia. It’s also important to recognize that this year marks the 200th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Colombia as well.
This day – 10 years later – it’s an important reminder of what we can achieve when we pursue an ambitious trade agenda that challenges each country to do more, and to be more, and to work cooperatively.
We reached this agreement after eight – I think it felt like 80 – long years of hard work and tough negotiations, Ambassador Eissenstat which was not easy in either country.
On the U.S. side, it certainly required diligent bipartisan effort in Congress over those years and hard work by both the Bush and the Obama Administrations
For Colombia, I was a big fan of Colombia throughout this process. But after the agreement was reached and the process was turned off, and years went by, what impressed me so much was that Colombia, its leaders, its President, its business community, its ag community stayed at the table working to find a way forward.
Whether it was through the May 10th agreement and how we would incorporate that into this agreement, or whether it was the specificity of the labor contracts and the union commitments — all new to trade. But every barrier that was thrown at Colombia and this agreement was overcome in a good and positive way.
So in my view, this agreement brought us closer to our key ally in the region, it created economic opportunities, tore down trade barriers, and eliminated significant tariffs as well.
I will tell you too, this was at the time, part of a concerted effort to engage more constructively in Central America and Latin America and the Caribbean – this was key to all of that in my view.
And while this agreement was the best of times and the worst of times, depending on where you were over those eight years, at the end of the day, we achieved what we hoped to achieve.
And in the 10 years since, this agreement has proved itself out. As a matured, fully-implemented agreement, certainly there are always disputes between bilateral trading partners. We work through them. That’s what the strength of an agreement like this is.
I also believe, as the former panelists were talking about, COVID has created great opportunities [to strengthen our] supply chains. Especially regional and in our backyards. Shame on us if we don’t take this opportunity to work together cooperatively to be able to create these resilient, reliable supply chains that make us both stronger.
Final point, I believe in free trade. I think it’s the greatest economic freedom we have. The ability to buy and sell and compete anywhere in the world, with as little government interference as possible, can lift not just people up and communities up, but whole countries up.
We ought to be doing more free trade. I sometimes get frustrated that America is not leading on trade today. I think we’re at a time where we need to be leading both at the WTO and in the regions around the world, with bilateral agreements.
It seems like there is a target rich environment to help shape rules-based trade.
But bringing back to Colombia, permanent trading partners, long-term trading partners, stay close to each other. Never walk away from each others regions, always look for ways to improve, to fine tune, to make it better. Look for those opportunities.
Today is a good reminder, on the 10th anniversary, we need to be doing more to be re-thinking our relationship and new opportunities with Colombia and America because they’re right there in front of us.