Chavez, incidentally, isn’t the only one who benefits when American lawmakers turn their backs on free trade. While Congress was putting our FTA into the deep freeze, Canada announced its own bilateral trade talks with Colombia, seeking some of the very trade benefits we may pass up.
Benefits from free trade are real. The Institute for International Economics, a Washington-based think tank, estimates, “the U.S. economy is now richer by about $1 trillion per year as a result of its further integration with the world economy since 1945.” The best way to keep increasing this amount is through free trade.
As President Bush reminded us in the State of the Union address, Colombia is “a friend of America that is confronting violence and terror and fighting drug traffickers.” It has more than earned the trade benefits Congress refuses to approve.
Instead of leading or even following, the United States looks as if it’s “getting out of the way” when it comes to free trade. If so, expect our competitors to become the new trade leaders. They’ll enjoy the benefits, while we wonder how we managed to squander decades of American leadership.