Currently, George Bush has submitted a free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States to Congress for consideration. Because I believe in free trade, I support this bill, but this agreement has more to it than just economics.
Colombia is increasingly an island of freedom. To the east, they share a long border with Venezuela and the increasingly aggressive and socialist Hugo Chavez. To the southwest, they border Ecuador, which is currently led by a Chavez ally and sycophant, Rafael Correa.
For a number of years, Colombia has been fighting the far-left Marxist group known as the FARC. The FARC has been abducting killing hundreds of people a year in their decades-long struggle to turn Colombia into a communist country. Colombia’s current president Álvaro Uribe has won a number of victories against them and has pushed them deep into the jungle. Evidence recently turned up suggesting Hugo Chavez may have given as much as $300 million to support the FARC’s terrorist activities. Hugo Chavez publicly defends the FARC and massed his troops on the border, threatening war, when Colombia briefly crossed into Ecuador to bomb a FARC base.
While Chavez and Correa have been confiscating private property and closing businesses, Colombia has been cutting the size of their government. Their national deficit has shrunk in recent years to acceptable levels.
In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady has some other interesting comments during an interview with Colombia’s trade minister Luis Plata.
“No sooner had Luis Plata sat down then he started talking about the Irish economic transformation -- from impoverished ugly duckling to swanky swan of Europe in just two decades -- and why a similar growth model is just what Colombia needs.”
If you recall I talked about the Irish miracle a while back. An excerpt:
“In 1985, the average Irish family made 40% less than their French and German counterparts. Today, because of the massive spending cuts and massive growth from that, the Irish make 40% more than the French and the Germans according to the IMF.”
Mr. Plata went on to say in the interview:
"We starting going to Ireland several years ago, he says, "because we were looking at countries around the world that had been successful in attracting foreign direct investment. What we found was that Ireland had lowered its corporate tax rate from 40% to 12.5%," and as a result "was attracting investment, had lowered tax evasion and had increased tax collection. We went back to Colombia and said, 'why don't we just bring [our corporate rate] from 38% to 12.5%.'"
Apparently, he was only able to get the government to adopt some of these reforms, but some is better than none.
Currently, Colombia is ranked as the 81st richest country in the world. This places them behind Mexico. True poverty is still common. I commend their president for taking a number of political risks for the long-term interests of his people. At the same time, he has successfully beaten back left-wing terrorist groups, but he increasingly faces threats from enemies of the United States.
Yet, the Democratic party has shamefully held up this trade bill. Hillary Clinton recently forced a campaign advisor to resign when it was discovered that he was also consulting in support of this trade agreement. What can we expect though from a party that receives so much money from unions who are against free trade any where, any time, any place for any reason? These choices held by them just do not match my values.
Our ally stands out the door step to a socialist dictator. They give no sympathy. Our ally stands against terrorists who kill and kidnap in hopes of one day installing a communist dictatorship. They give no cheer. Our ally is taking political risks to lift his country out of poverty. They only see a threat to American union membership. Our ally is the best hope and beacon of economic freedom in a darkening South America. They want to embarrass Bush one more time before he leaves office by defeating this bill.
We can show South America that the future is not made of Hugo Chavez’s red banners, and angry militarism. Chavez wants this bill to fail because he knows that Colombia’s success will loosen his grip on power. Tell your congressional representative to sign this free trade bill today, as I have already done. Chavez likes to rattle his saber, so we should unsheathe our pens and sign the bill.
As always, tell me what you think.