Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pelosi's shenanigans on the Colombia free trade agreement

The Washington Post excoriates Pelosi and the House Democrats for their plan to scuttle the Colombia free trade agreement. They title their editorial:
Drop Dead, Colombia
Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocks a trade deal with America's closest South American ally.
That's exactly what she's doing by using procedural maneuvers to keep from scheduling a vote within 90 days as required by fast track authority. She claims that they need more debate and investigation - something they could have been doing all along while stalling negotiations with the White House about scheduling the bill. It's all a stall to prevent a vote. She's clearly afraid that if the agreement came up for a vote it would pass. She knows that there are some Democrats who would vote for it. So she has to bow to the AFL-CIO and block the vote. As the Post says,
That political turf-staking, and the Democrats' decreasingly credible claims of a death-squad campaign against Colombia's trade unionists, constitutes all that's left of the case against the agreement. Economically, it should be a no-brainer -- especially at a time of rising U.S. joblessness. At the moment, Colombian exports to the United States already enjoy preferences. The trade agreement would make those permanent, but it would also give U.S. firms free access to Colombia for the first time, thus creating U.S. jobs. Politically, too, the agreement is in the American interest, as a reward to a friendly, democratic government that has made tremendous strides on human rights, despite harassment from Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

To be sure, President Bush provoked Ms. Pelosi. But he forced the issue only after months of inconclusive dickering convinced him that Democrats were determined to avoid a vote that would force them to accept accountability for opposing an agreement that is manifestly in America's interest. It turns out his suspicions were correct.

"I take this action with deep respect to the people of Colombia and will be sure that any message they receive is one of respect for their country, and the importance of the friendship between our two countries," Ms. Pelosi protested yesterday. Perhaps Colombia's government and people will understand. We don't.
How the Democratic Party has lost its way. I'm just beginning to study John F. Kennedy's administration and one of the points of his New Frontier was lowering tariffs. One of Bill Clinton's claims to being a New Democrat was his support for free trade. The Democrats today now are closer to 19th century Republicans supporting tariffs than their incarnation at the end of 20th century. As the WSJ writes today,
Even if the free trade agreement is somehow removed from cold storage, Ms. Pelosi's cheating is a first-order strategic blunder. Colombia is one of America's closest friends in a hostile region menaced by Hugo Chávez's Venezuela. For all the talk of repairing the U.S. "image" in the world, the Democrats don't really mind harming that image if it pleases the AFL-CIO.