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Camp & Brady Statements: Colombia Resolution, Need to Act on Trade Agreement (H.Res. 1465)

June 24, 2010

Below are statements from Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) regarding H. Res. 1465, a resolution reaffirming the longstanding friendship and alliance between the United States and Colombia. The statements congratulated Colombia on its democratic election and noted that the United States should strengthen its alliance with Colombia by making the U.S.- Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement ready for a vote in Congress.

Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI):

I thank my colleague for yielding and for the introduction of this very timely resolution.  Last weekend, in a free and open democratic process, Colombia elected a new President.  The people of Colombia should be commended for continuing their long tradition of democracy.

President-elect Santos is a strong U.S. ally who will continue Colombia’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law, restore peace and stability, and promote economic growth for all Colombians.  Colombia’s progress is undeniable and its workers are safer now than ever before. 

So, while we should be reaffirming our alliance today, we should also be strengthening that alliance by passing the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.  The United States already offers Colombia almost total duty-free access to the U.S. market, yet American exports face significant tariffs entering the Colombian market.  The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement would lift these barriers and level the playing field, increasing U.S. exports by at least $1 billion.

The Administration and Congressional Democrats have instead allowed this agreement to languish and this valuable ally to twist in the wind.  As a result, U.S. employers have paid over $2.8 billion in unnecessary duties on American exports to Colombia.  Those duties would vanish under the agreement and would allow U.S. employers to use this cash to create new job opportunities.   

But that’s not the worst of it.  In disregarding our agreement, the Administration and Congressional leadership have allowed other countries to race ahead of us, giving foreign workers a competitive advantage. 

American farmers are already experiencing the ramifications of this inaction.  U.S. farmers have lost millions in potential exports to Colombia; those sales are instead being made by farmers in Argentina and Brazil, because those countries already have an agreement in place with Colombia.

The damage to American workers and farmers will only get worse if Colombia’s agreements with Canada, the EU, and others go into effect before our agreement.  There is absolutely no reason for this to happen.  The U.S.-Colombia agreement was signed over 1,300 days ago.  The United States had a huge head start that the Administration and leadership has willfully conceded.  For over a year now, the Administration has promised to find a way forward on this Agreement and present Colombia with the list of things it needed to do.  The Colombians are still waiting for that list.

If the Administration is serious about doubling exports and creating jobs, it must to do what’s necessary to bring this Agreement up for a vote. 

Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX):

I want to congratulate the Colombia and President-Elect Santos on the successful and democratic election.  Madam Speaker, I would like to enter into the record this editorial from the Washington Post, calling on the Administration and Congressional Democrats to support the incoming Santos Administration by acting on the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.

President-elect Santos will continue the great work done by President Uribe to strengthen the rule of law and improve the lives of all Colombians – Colombian workers are safer now than ever before. 

Despite this progress, Colombia faces real challenges.  Venezuela has imposed a trade embargo because of Colombia’s strong support for the United States, severely damaging the Colombian economy. We have a powerful tool to help Colombia weather the embargo: the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.  With this Agreement, the United States would provide both economic and political support for a truly democratic government and a longstanding ally.  Unfortunately, Democrats in Congress have denied us even the opportunity for an up or down vote on the agreement. 

But Colombia isn’t standing still waiting for us to get our act together.  It is racing ahead, completing agreements with other countries that allow those countries and their workers to dominate over us in the Colombian market.  Just yesterday, the Canadian legislature ratified the Canada-Colombia trade agreement, and that agreement could go into effect in a matter of just a few months.  Colombia is negotiating agreements with the EU, Panama, and South Korea.  As a result, American workers are falling behind.

There is no credible reason to oppose the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement.  It levels the playing field for American workers, creating over a billion dollars in new American exports.  It will impose stronger labor protections for Colombian workers, which is why thousands of Colombian union members support it.  It demonstrates America’s commitment to a valuable and longstanding ally. 

The Administration says it wants to increase American exports, create American jobs, and ensure a strong U.S. foreign policy.  But none of this is believable while it ignores the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and does not make it ready for a vote in Congress.