About the Author: Daniel Sullivan serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs.
I would like to thank those who took the time to comment on my September 24 blog, to address some of the concerns you raised, and to provide the update that I promised.
The meeting was a success -- first, President Bush, backed by nine heads of government and representatives of two other governments, launched the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas Initiative. As he said, the “initiative will provide a forum where leaders can work to ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared. It will deepen the connections among regional markets. It will expand our cooperation on development issues. This is a very promising initiative, and I expect positive results when our representatives meet on these issues later this year.”
Specifically, Pathways is designed to achieve five goals: (1) increase opportunities for our citizens to take advantage of trade, particularly small businesses and farmers; (2) promote and deepen an open architecture for regional trade consistent with the global trading system; (3) expand cooperation on regional and global economic development issues; (4) develop and exchange best practices on labor and environmental standards and enforcement; and (5) engage the private sector and civil society to advance these objectives.
President Bush and the leaders also discussed how trade agreements have benefited both the United States and our partners. Trade between the U.S. and CAFTA-DR has increased 23%, Chile is up more than 180%, and Canada and Mexico more than 200%. As Secretary of State Rice said, “trade has been a positive story for the U.S. economy, accounting for more than 45 percent of our economic growth last year. U.S. exports are 18 percent higher in the first half of 2008 than the same period in 2007. We believe that we should build on this success to create more opportunities for all of our citizens.”
Trade agreements are beneficial because they reduce tariff rates, among other things, which result in American exports being less expensive and more competitive. For example, the average Colombia tariff on American goods is currently over 12%, whereas the tariff we apply on Colombian goods entering the United States is only 0.1%. The Colombia FTA will eliminate tariffs immediately on three-fourths of U.S. exports to Colombia. As a result of the lower tariff, U.S. exports to Colombia are estimated to increase by $1.1 billion, and the increase in sales should mean more American jobs. President Bush and the leaders called for the U.S. Congress to pass the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements in order to achieve this gain.
Of course, this meeting between President Bush and the leaders of the countries with which we have negotiated free trade agreements is not the end. As the President mentioned, there will be a Pathways ministerial later this year at which we will discuss concrete steps to take to achieve the five goals of the initiative (read the full communiqué). Additionally, the Administration will continue to press Congress to pass the pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama (as well as with South Korea). I will be back to let you know about the progress we are making in spreading the benefits of trade throughout the hemisphere.