Democrats' lose-lose strategy in Colombia

Houston Chronicle Editorial:

Rejection by the U.S. House of the free trade agreement with Colombia falls somewhere between tragedy and farce. Failure to adopt the agreement harms workers in both countries, but particularly the U.S. workers House Democrats claim to be helping.

The House voted 224-195 Thursday to end a rule that would have required it to vote on the trade agreement within 90 days. The procedural vote means the proposal probably will not be considered this year, and both Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York, say they are leery of free trade agreements.

House Democrats are courting organized labor this election year, and unions in the United States generally oppose free trade agreements regardless of their benefits. Human rights activists argue that Congress should not approve the agreement because too many union members in Colombia are murdered.

Those who voted to reject the trade agreement were unaware of or ignored the fact that Colombian goods already enjoy broad access to U.S. markets. The trade agreement would have opened Colombia to U.S. exports. The agreement, in short, is indisputably to the advantage of U.S. companies and their employees. The treaty even includes the labor and environmental standards that Democrats say are necessary for free trade to be fair trade.

As to the charges that Colombia tolerates the murder of union members, the unions' own figures prove otherwise. Under Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe, union members are eight times less likely to be slain than members of the general population of that violence-prone country. And of the handful of union members slain recently, many were killed for motives other than their union membership.

The Colombian free trade agreement has fallen victim to selfish election-year politics. Democrats don't want to allow President Bush a victory, even if it is in the United States' best interest.


The Chronicle is a pretty liberal paper but they could not swallow the bogus arguments put forward by the Democrats on this issue. Too bad they want remember this come election time when those Democrats are running on this sorry record.


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