Free trade makes nations prosperous; trade restrictions allow the creation of artificial monopolies which drive up consumer prices.
The great historical example is the United States itself — a nation prosperous largely because no tariffs restrict the free flow of goods and services across state borders. Because we can freely export our mineral wealth to the eastern states — and freely import goods manufactured with those minerals — labor is divided, economies of scale apply, and everyone prospers. Imagine what it would cost to buy a car or refrigerator if we were restricted to buying only those manufactured in Nevada.
Free trade works internationally, too. Great Britain became a world economic power in the 19th century — as America did in the 20th — thanks to free trade. When small-minded protectionist forces carry the day — as with the Smoot-Hawley tariff of the 1930s — economic conditions worsen for all except a select few who are protected by their pals in Washington from having to compete on quality and price.
Cutting a tariff-reducing deal with a South American nation such as Colombia makes particularly good sense. Right now, Colombia sends most of its products to the United States duty-free, while American products exported to Colombia face tariffs of up to 35 percent for non-agricultural goods — and even higher tariffs for many agricultural products.
That hurts American industry and costs American jobs.
But trade unions rely on the mailed fist of government to sustain their losing battle to keep capital from moving freely in search of more competitive, lower-cost environments. (If you doubt it’s a losing battle, try to buy a new word processor or television set manufactured in the United States.) So the trade unions oppose freer trade with pretty much anybody.
And America’s Democratic Party is pretty much a wholly owned subsidiary of the waning organized labor movement.
So how did Democrats respond when President Bush on Monday sent Congress a proposed free trade agreement with Colombia — a move that will force lawmakers to vote on the pact within 90 legislative days?
“The president’s decision to act unilaterally in sending the free trade agreement disregards three decades of established precedent under fast-track legislation and demonstrates yet again his disrespect for Congress,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, leading off a campaign of misdirection which will argue the White House shouldn’t allow American farmers and manufacturers to compete on the Colombian market until the Colombian government jumps through all kinds of new hoops, agreeing to allow the AFL-CIO to organize their army, or whatever.
What this squabble is really about is that Sen. Reid doesn’t want to see presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton forced to vote one way or another on this sensible trade treaty before next fall’s election.
Because, if the senators vote in favor of free trade and American jobs, the Democrats will hear cries of outrage from their financiers in Big Labor. But if Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton vote against free trade with a strong South American ally — one standing firm against communist harassment and infiltration from next-door Venezuela — they’ll be telegraphing to the voters that all their rhetoric about “doing something” (as opposed to the current “do-nothing” administration) about American jobs and prosperity isn’t really first on their agenda, at all.
“People throughout the hemisphere are watching to see what the United States will do,” President Bush said Monday. “If Congress fails to approve this agreement, it would not only abandon a brave ally; it would send a signal throughout the region that America cannot be counted on to support its friends.”
Failure to approve a free-trade deal with Colombia would encourage Venezuela President Hugo Chavez’s anti-American regime and cast the United States as untrustworthy and impotent across South America, the president said. He praised President Alvaro Uribe as committed to democratic values, and he noted that since 2002, Colombia has reported declines in kidnappings, terrorist attacks, murders and violence against union members.
But the Democrats’ only hope now is to disguise what this issue is really about. Watch for their surrogates to now fan out across the country, trying to paint Colombia as some kind of fascist hellhole.
This is about feeding the world, and getting paid for it. Would Sens. Reid, Clinton and Obama have us refuse to feed the struggling people of Colombia because their government isn’t on good enough terms with the AFL-CIO? Where would they prefer America sell her agricultural and manufacturing bounty? To such beacons of freedom as China, Russia, Egypt and Syria?