Keeping Promises Among Partners

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
July 24, 2008
Secretary of State on Colombia

Secretary Rice recently wrote this Op-Ed on U.S.-Colombian relations for Real Clear Politics.

In any partnership, the coin of the realm is trust and responsibility -- in other words, saying what you mean and doing what you say. In the dramatic rescue on July 2 of 15 hostages, including three Americans, held captive for many years by guerrillas and terrorists, deep in the Colombian jungles, we saw a powerful reminder that the United States has no better partner in South America than the government and people of Colombia.

Colombia's leaders, especially President Uribe, had promised us that our three abducted citizens would be treated no differently than the many Colombian men and women who shared their fate. Colombia never wavered in this promise, and never cut any side deals with the guerrillas that could have freed their citizens at the expense of ours. This was not an easy act of solidarity, but Colombia remained true to its word.

In the breathtaking rescue mission, carried out with the utmost skill and professionalism (and without a shot being fired) by the Colombian Armed Forces, our partners did great honor to themselves -- and a great service to us. We will never forget that. Nor will we forget the many Colombians who still have not found rescue from their guerrilla captors.

That our Colombian partners made good on their promise in this instance is important enough, but this is not the exception; it is the norm.

More than a decade ago, with its country wracked by the worst insurgency in the hemisphere, with its economy contracting, and with its democratic state on the brink of failure, Colombia resolved to turn the tide. Its government and people set out an ambitious plan to secure and expand their country's democratic development, and they asked for our support -- political, economic, diplomatic, and military. Starting under President Clinton, expanding under President Bush, and with bipartisan support in Congress all along the way, the United States has fully backed Colombia in meeting its bold promises of success. And the results speak for themselves.

Our Colombian partners said that they would win their fight against domestic terrorism and reclaim their country. Today they are.

They said they would combat social exclusion in Colombia by building the capacity and expanding the reach of their democracy. Today they are.

They said they would open their markets, trade freely and fairly, fuel economic growth, and create opportunities for social justice for all of their citizens. Today they are.

And our Colombian partners said they would protect the lives of all of their citizens, including trade unionists, and bring murderers and criminals to justice. Today violent crime has plummeted, law and order is expanding, and President Uribe's government has taken the courageous step of extraditing 15 major drug traffickers and paramilitary leaders to the United States to stand trial in our courts for their crimes against our citizens.

Colombia has done all of this -- and more. And the United States has supported them every step of the way. With the momentum of more than a decade's worth of shared progress at our backs, with Colombia on the cusp of self-sustained and lasting stability, and with Democrats and Republicans having shown that they can implement a long-term bipartisan strategy to achieve a critical national interest -- the success of a democratic Colombia -- now is the last time that we should begin going back on our word to Colombia. And yet that is exactly what we risk doing if Congress fails to pass the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

In addition to being a slap in the face to our Colombian partners, sacrificing this trade agreement at the altar of domestic politics would be no favor to U.S. workers. More than 90 percent of Colombian goods now enter the United States duty-free, while our exports to Colombia face tariffs of up to 35 percent. This agreement would level the playing field for our workers, so they could send the products of their labor to Colombia on the same terms that Colombians now send theirs to us.

Passing this trade agreement will be a culmination and realization of our partnership with Colombia. It will help the Colombian government and people to lock in their democratic and economic reforms. It will signal that Colombia, like a growing number of our fellow democracies in the Americas today, is a reliable place to invest and poised to compete effectively in the global economy. It will affirm that the future of our hemisphere belongs to democratic citizens, of the left and the right, who want their elected leaders to govern justly and lawfully, to expand economic freedom and trade, and to invest in their people. And it will send a message across the world that the United States will honor the promises we make to our friends and allies.

Colombia has stood by us. We have stood by them. And we have succeeded together. Now is not the time to jeopardize the fruits of our partnership, but to consolidate them. Now is the time to keep our word to Colombia, just as they have kept their word to us. Anything less is no way for a great nation to conduct itself - and no way to repay a faithful partner.

Comments

Comments

Syrian P.
|
Syria
July 24, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

America finally discovered its green backyard, found it is not really a bunch of Banana's Republics, but there is much more value to it than what Chikita and Dole told the Americans they could find. They discovered that the grass is not green like a Banana tree leafs, but in fact it's black, goowee black. Thanks to Chavez and Venezuela oil reserves, like America discovered the need for Democracy in Iraq some 50 years belated, now Colombia become important country for the U.S., only because they needed military bases nearby to Chavez oil reserves. All the sudden FARC is a problem, but it was not for some 30 years, just like Alqaida was not either, until they are needed in Iraq. I guess they also need FARC to look west to Venezuela as well. Is that what the CIA calls -Boiler Plate Ops-.

Ronald
|
New York, USA
July 24, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Colombia: Standing By......

One hostage release situation does not a reformation make. Not even if you share the credit With Bill Clinton.

The FARC is a product of U.S. narcotics consumption and arms for cocaine for decades. Recent events do not justify massive trade agreements/consessions on top of huge military and security outlays. Sometimes, I think these "successes" are manufactured by the outgoing Administration to create a positive legacy. Stand by....

Moshe
|
District Of Columbia, USA
July 24, 2008

Moshe in Washington, DC writes:

The best trade agreements are those that further the interests of both signatory countries. A Colombia - US Free Trade Agreement could go very far in helping foster growth for both economies if special attention is provided to not jeopardizing local industries. The real intent of the trade agreement should be to bolster US and Colombian products so they have a competitive advantage over imports that are not a part of free trade signatory country, or a country that can afford not to be exporting the said product (harder than it sounds).

The biggest danger for Colombia is if the US does not allow protectionist measures for certain agricultural products (e.g. bean and corn imports) that might, if exported to the US, devastate an already poor local market. I can remember traveling in Latin America on a recent trip and talking to locals about the price of everyday food products skyrocketing because of increased exports from their local area, increased energy prices, and inflationary pressure. For them, a few dollar difference meant a few meals for the family. While the exports were providing revenue, the revenue was not equitably distributed to all, and could, therefore, not compensate for increased prices. Conversely, the import of traditional food from newly burgeoning countries to the US has created the same affect on our agricultural market, with US farmers losing businesses and/or property.

The question for this Free Trade Agreement (FTA), is whether the US and Colombia have taken into adequate consideration the needs of industry, American and Colombian consumers, and the sustainability of rural local markets abroad. Will the FTA provide cheaper prices for needed products not made in Columbia (e.g., baby formula, machinery, and electronics), which can improve the livelihood and economic stability for all? I suppose we will soon find out.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 25, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

It is one thing to oppose the Columbian free-trade agreement, it is altogether a different animal when one individual in Congress can effect millions of lives by not allowing a bill to move forward for debate and a vote.

This is an entirely new species of filibuster.

Josh S.
|
New York, USA
July 25, 2008

Josh in New York writes:

The hostage rescue was done by cunning, it is not a trick that can be used again. Three cheers for whoever devised this trick. In general past performance does not indicate future success, in this instance, past performance precludes future success.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 26, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Moshe,

That's an astute pondering...

I think when the fear of free trade is looked at, it is not simply "protectionism" manifest through fear of lost jobs or profit, it is also the fear of an ecomomic shock...too much change, too fast...that exists as an underlying factor.

What has happened in reality, observing other free trade examples, are a gradual opening up of markets at a naturally sustainable pace. Simply because of limitations in national infrastructure and transportation to market in developing nations.

Free trade impacts every sector of the economy directly and indirectly all at once, but can only be institutionalized at the rate any given nation's private sector can capitalize on the opportunities.

That's why there's also develoment assistance for nations that need to invest in their infrastructure to better serve their people.

Ronald
|
New York, USA
July 28, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Trade Trumps Ethics --

In Colombia, as in Afghanistan, and many other regions trapped in narco-corruption-economies, trade before the establishment of rule-of-law and human security, will only exacerbate the political, social and economic problems; while enriching the corrupt and further harming the potential for a sustainable economy and good governance.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 30, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

This is a well written and poignant piece -- right up to the part where the free trade deal is mentioned, from there -- after I feel like I'm being sold a vacuum cleaner by a door-to-door salesman. Or saleswoman in this case. Regardless, a lowering of Colombia's tariffs may make sending our manufacturing goods there more lucrative and possibly provide them with those goods at a cheaper cost. I'm not sure, however, how this will help them find or increase demand for their exports, which would be the real score for them.

.

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