Hillary Clinton has jettisoned campaign adviser Mark Penn because it came out that his PR firm was working on behalf of the government of Colombia in support of the pending trade treaty between the U.S. and that country. Clinton is afraid that she might not look as anti-trade as Barack Obama; both candidates are vociferously opposed to the trade deal with Colombia.
While a lot of attention has been paid to the politics of the Colombia agreement, very little has been paid to the merits, which U. S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab addressed at a press conference this afternoon:
If you look at the Colombia agreement itself, the Colombia agreement is a matter of leveling the playing field. Virtually everything that Colombia exports to the United States currently comes in duty-free through preference programs that have been around — temporary preference programs, but they’ve been around since 1991.
And what this free trade agreement does is open the Colombian market to U.S. exports of goods and services. And on the date that this agreement would enter into force, 80 percent of what we ship to Colombia in industrial and consumer goods would become duty-free.
Colombia currently has tariffs as high as 35 percent on those goods.
And in the case of agriculture, there are tariffs in the 80-plus percent range. Those would also — many of them would drop to zero upon entry into force and then would phase out thereafter.
So from a trade perspective, this is a matter of leveling the playing field. And, as we’ve seen with our other free trade agreements, U.S. exports to our FTA partner countries have grown 40 percent faster than our exports to the rest of the world.
Running in the Democratic primaries, Clinton and Obama are appealing to the least well-informed, least sophisticated element of America’s electorate. Sadly, instead of trying to lead on the issue of free trade, as Bill Clinton once did, to his credit, Hillary and Obama have chosen to pander to their voters’ biases.