December 5, 2007
Thank goodness! The U.S. Senate has approved the measure establishing a free trade agreement between the United States and Peru. The vote was 77-18, a gratifying gesture of faith in a country that has endured much sacrifice over the past 20 years to lay the groundwork for mutually beneficial economic ties. "The agreement will go into effect after the two countries adjust laws to conform to the deal." See Washington Post, which noted that one of the leading opponents of the measure was independent (Socialist) Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The House of Representatives had given its approval to this agreement in early November.
In Peru, President Alan Garcia thanked President Bush and his own predecessor, Alejandro Toledo, for their efforts in bringing the free trade agreement to fruition. See La Republica (in Spanish). Twenty years ago, Garcia was a fierce adversary of the United States, much like Hugo Chavez is today, and this shift toward a more friendly, open attitude goes to show how experience can lead to greater wisdom.
Meanwhile, President Bush has been putting pressure on a reluctant Congress to pass the free trade agreement with Colombia. President Uribe is one of our closest allies in that turbulent region, and failure to back him up at a critical moment of opportunity like this (just after Hugo Chavez's electoral defeat in Venezuela) would be a colossal blunder. Bush declared:
The biggest fear in South America is not the leader in Venezuela, but the biggest fear for stability is if the United States Congress rejects the free trade agreement with Colombia...
It would be an insult to a friend; it would send a contradictory message to a country led by a very strong leader, who is working hard to deal with some very difficult problems. (SOURCE: BBC)
Well put. Of course, there will be many self-interested nay-sayers who complain that the agreement does not give adequate protection to this or that, but such perfectionist thinking in this situation is terribly misplaced. The Colombian government is flawed, but it is working with us for the most part, and we have vital interests at stake: discouraging those who are tempted to profit from the narcotics trade.