Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) issued the following statements today after visiting Colombia for an intense two-day mission to discuss the pending trade agreement between the United States and Colombia and to examine Colombia’s continuing work to carry out the Action Plan Related to Labor Rights to which Colombia and the Administration agreed on April 7. The bipartisan delegation, which also included Congressmen Kevin Brady (R-TX), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Aaron Schock (R-IL), met with Colombian President Santos, many of his top ministers and advisors, labor leaders and labor-affiliated groups, and employers.
Chairman Camp stated, “This is a promising moment for the United States and Colombia because the long, hard work by Colombia and U.S. supporters of our pending trade agreement is paying off. We are very impressed with the level of commitment and action that the Santos Administration has demonstrated in the labor rights action plan to which it agreed with the U.S. Administration. It is particularly striking that Colombia has already submitted to the U.S. Administration for review all of the action items that were due on April 22. We met with senior government officials responsible for completing all items of the action plan and also heard from important labor and business groups. After these meetings, we are confident in Colombia’s ability to carry out its commitment. Colombia’s rapid progress sets the stage for what we hope will be the Administration’s decision to move forward now with technical discussions on the trade agreement and to ensure that Congress is able to consider all three of our pending trade agreements by July 1.”
Democratic Whip Hoyer added, “I felt it was important to visit Colombia as work on the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement continues. Colombia is a critical ally to the United States, and I strongly believe it is in our economic and national security interests to strengthen our ties by moving the Agreement forward. Colombia has made significant progress in addressing worker rights and violence against workers, and I look forward to continuing to work with Colombia on what needs to be done so that we can advance this Agreement and the other two pending trade agreements very soon.”
Background Information on the Need for the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement
Getting back on the playing field: American exporters have been falling behind because of our delay in moving forward with the trade agreement. The United States needs to create an even playing field so that we can stay competitive, rather than sitting on the sidelines while the rest of the world concludes new trade agreements without us. As we have worked on our agreement with Colombia, Colombia has concluded trade agreements with other countries, whose exporters now have a competitive advantage and pay lower tariffs than U.S. firms must pay on their exports to Colombia.
Creating quality U.S. jobs and increasing U.S. exports by lowering barriers to U.S. goods and services: Moving forward now on this trade agreement is a way to create good U.S. jobs and boost economic growth by opening new markets for U.S. goods and services. The Colombia trade agreement would eliminate or substantially lower the tariffs and non-tariff barriers on U.S. exports in all sectors and create job opportunities in the United States.
Strengthening our national security and U.S. leadership in our hemisphere: This agreement is vital to our national security because of the critical role that Colombia plays as one of America’s most faithful allies. After decades of violent insurgency, peace has increasingly returned to Colombia, in part with help that we provided through Plan Colombia – and we should not squander this dividend on our investment. Furthermore, U.S. leadership in our hemisphere is increasingly under threat from competitors, but approval of this trade agreement will signal our regional reengagement and our commitment to our important partnership with Colombia.