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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
US-Colombian Trade Talks
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:37 am

Via the FT: Uribe heads to US to salvage free trade negotiations:

Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s president, is expected to roll up his shirt sleeves in Washington on Wednesday on a high-stakes mission to personally salvage stalled but crucial free trade negotiations with the US.

[…]

Peru signed a free trade deal with the US in December, while a pact between Central America, the Dominican Republic and the US was approved last year. Bogotá’s warm relations with the Bush administration, which views the Uribe government as its leading Latin American ally in the arena of security and anti-narcotics co-operation, have not paved the way for smooth negotiations

The FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) one-piece-at-a-time process continues-although I doubt that a true Americas-wide free trade zone is likely in the near term.

The relationship between US farm subsidies and US anti-narcotics policy in Colombia is noteworthy:

Talks that began in 2004 stalled at the end of last year amid rising opposition from Colombian farmers who fear a flood of US subsidised agricultural goods would jeopardise jobs. Agreement is important because existing US trade preferences to steer farmers away from illegal drugs crops expire at the end of the year, and their renewal in Congress is not guaranteed.

Andrés Pastrana, Colombia’s ambassador to the US, said Mr Uribe’s priority would be to seek an agricultural agreement that would prevent a reversal of hard-won successes in the war on drugs.

Since part of the strategy of coca eradication is crop substitution, anything that might send agricultural prices downward significantly could damage an already precarious program.

I am not especially sanguine that crop substitution is a viable solution to the cocaine problem, but certainly subsidized farm products coming from the US could jeopardize whatever gains have been made. Of course, it also leads to the question of why we continue to subsidize farm products if those products could be produced more cheaply abroad and imported to our markets. That would help US consumers and the economies of developing states. And, of course, if developing economies improve, they become more capable of buying US products. Further, the more developed an economy, the more stable the state and the less likely that political extremism is to develop.

As a side note: Pastrana was Uribe’s predecessor as President, although they were not direct political rivals in 2002, since at the time it was unconstitutional for a president to seek a second term, they were members of different political parties. Certainly the notion of appointing as ambassador to one’s most significant foreign partner a former president from a different party would not be likely in the US context.

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, Latin America, War on Drugs | |Send TrackBack

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