The Huffington Post | 3/3/2011 12:00:00 AM
Economics of Colombia and Panama-U.S. Free Trade Agreements Speak for Themselves
March 3--In contrast to the looming political fights over spending, healthcare repeal, and immigration, free trade could be a rare case where President Barack Obama can benefit from Republican control of the House of Representatives.
This opportunity for bipartisan collaboration is particularly true of the Colombia deal, which has been on the table since 2006, but only if the president is able to overcome the opposition of one of the most vocal and intense coalitions of anti-free trade groups ever, comprising U.S. labor unions and human rights groups. Their collaboration on raising legitimate human and labor rights concerns in Colombia have created a ardent alliance that combines a historically grave (though much improving) human rights and labor rights situation with groups that traditionally have resisted free trade. Both groups include themselves in the Democratic Party, with one of the most outspoken and strident of the groups, the AFL-CIO, constituting an important electoral base for the President in his 2012 reelection bid. Unfortunately, advocates -- including moderate Democrats and seasoned policymakers -- of the deal have been making the wrong argument to this powerful constituency, focusing on Colombia's improvements in human rights and strategic importance rather than the very real benefits this deal will have for American workers and manufacturers.
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