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Transition 2012

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Trade Update: U.S.-Latin American Trade on the Rise

by Newsteam Staff
April 16, 2012

An employee of a Cuban restaurant puts up the flags of Latin American countries in Cartagena April 15, 2012 (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).. An employee of a Cuban restaurant puts up the flags of Latin American countries in Cartagena April 15, 2012 (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters)..


A U.S.-Colombia trade deal (Bloomberg) approved by Congress in October may put the president at odds with the AFL-CIO (NYT) in an election year. An official for the powerful U.S. labor union that endorsed Obama in March (LAT) said the Colombian government has not done enough to protect labor organizers.

“Less than 10 percent of the nearly 3,000 cases of trade unionists murders since 1986 have reached a conviction,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in an e-mailed statement.

The trade agreement will move ahead in May — earlier than expected — ending Colombian duties on more than 80 percent of U.S. exports, strengthening intellectual property rights and ultimately putting President Barack Obama closer to his goal of doubling U.S. trade with Colombia by 2014. Obama said the deal will create thousands of jobs in the United States and give Colombia more access to the U.S. market.

The Romney campaign said while the trade agreement, along with another signed in the fall with Panama, is welcome, Obama should have moved faster and not let it languish for years.

“President Obama missed several opportunities early in his administration to secure quick passage of trade agreements with Colombia and Panama which together will create thousands of jobs here in Florida,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a statement sent out by the Romney campaign. “Instead, President Obama bowed to political pressure from powerful labor unions to stall these agreements.”

Analysts say the trade agreement, and others like it, will lower the U.S. trade deficit rapidly and help the overall economy.

“It’s estimated that U.S. export growth will average 8 percent annually over the next 10 years, outpacing imports which will advance by 4.8 percent,” writes Melissa Bynes Brooks at Politics365.

On his way to the Summit of the Americas, Obama also announced the Small Business Network of the Americas, an initiative aimed at providing export counseling to small and medium-sized U.S. firms and better connecting the hemisphere’s small businesses particularly using the Internet.

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on The Candidates and the Economy.

Suggested Other Reading:

As Latin America grows into its new era of autonomy and economic growth, the region needs to be addressed with the mindset of international relations and not just comparative politics, warns Christopher Sabatini in Foreign Affairs.

This CFR Independent Task Force report encourages the Obama administration and Congress to adopt a “pro-America” trade policy that brings to more Americans the benefits of global engagement.

The U.S.-Brazil trade relationship is also growing, though perhaps not as quickly as President Dilma Rousseff would like, as the Unites States becomes “a big, friendly shopping center” for Brazilians, according to William Waack in The American Interest.

While trade with the U.S. and Latin American countries is growing, Latin American intra-regional trade is suffering from political protectionism, says Andres Oppenheimer with McClatchy Newspapers.

— Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor

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