“As your national security advisor in that region, I will tell you that it is very important that the free trade agreement be passed from a national security perspective. And, I hear that not just from senior people in Colombia, but from my interlocutors in the region. They’re watching very closely to see what happens to a nation that stands with the United States for a decade or more.”
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“This vital agreement will advance U.S. interests in Colombia, a strategically located country that is arguably our closest ally in Latin America … [and] advance U.S. security and economic interests by forging a deeper partnership.” – Generals James Hill, Peter Pace, Charles Wilhelm, Barry McCaffrey and George Joulwan, in 2008 as former SOUTHCOM commanders (1990-04)
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“Further delay in ratifying these agreements risks damaging our relations with Colombia, Panama, and throughout the hemisphere by raising doubts about America’s reliability as a partner … [W]e respectfully urge [the President and Congress] to agree on a firm deadline for ratifying the Colombian and Panamanian Free Trade Agreements within the first half of 2011.” – Bipartisan group of six U.S. Trade Representatives, two Ambassadors at Large to Latin America, and eleven Assistant Secretaries of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (Mar. 2011)
After decades of violent insurgency, peace has increasingly returned to Colombia, in part with our help through Plan Colombia – a dividend on our investment that we must not squander
· The United States invested over $8 billion in aid through Plan Colombia and the follow-on efforts of SOUTHCOM, USAID, and other agencies – thereby giving Colombia hope in the depths of civil strife. In return, Colombia has more than matched our assistance, with U.S. security cooperation funds amounting to less than 5 percent of the Colombian defense budget in 2010.
· The U.S. State Department reports that, between 2002 and 2008, homicides fell by 44 percent, kidnappings by 88 percent, terrorist attacks by 79 percent, and attacks on the country’s infrastructure by 60 percent. The homicide rate has fallen to 32 per 100,000 people, according to SOUTHCOM.
U.S. leadership in our hemisphere is under threat from competitors & the Administration’s inattention to Latin America, but the Colombia agreement signals our reengagement
· “Absent the [trade agreement], the U.S. Government will likely lose political leverage with Colombia apart from historical ties that count for less each day. Colombia … is increasingly looking outward for both new commercial relations and political support.” – From Losing Jobs and Alienating Friends: The Consequences of Falling Behind on Free Trade with Colombia and Panama, Minority Staff Report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Feb. 8, 2011).
By providing Colombians with alternatives to the drug trade and by building on a key alliance in the war on drugs, the Colombia trade agreement will help keep drugs from our children
· UN International Narcotics Control Board (March 2011): Removed Colombia from its “special observation list,” citing institutional improvements and a 50 percent reduction in coca cultivation in the past decade. Noted that Colombia continues to be the world’s largest cocaine producer – which shows much collaborative work remains to be done.
Through the Colombian agreement, we stand with a strategic ally that has stood with us
· Colombia is a longstanding military ally of the United States. Colombian troops served with distinction alongside U.S. troops in the Korean War, and Colombia offered military personnel for current U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Colombian troops also serve under the UN mandate, including in the Sinai, where they have been deployed since 1956.
The Colombia agreement enhances U.S. energy security by expanding trade with a country that is a reliable, friendly, democratic, nearby source of energy products
· Colombia is Latin America’s 3rd largest provider of energy products to the U.S., behind only Mexico and Venezuela, and exported over 40 percent of its petroleum production to the U.S. in 2009.