Some good news for Colombia on the trade front: Canada’s House of Commons passed the pending free trade agreement with Colombia on June 14, by a better than 2-1 margin. The Senate will now vote on the accord for final approval. Nonetheless, this is an important step for both countries, and a signal of support—both from Prime Minister Harper’s governing Conservatives and the opposition Liberals—for the priority effort to build Canada’s ties with the hemisphere.
Two-way trade between the countries is already over $1.25 billion each year; expect that to expand, especially in agricultural products, now that Canada has a privileged position in Colombia’s economy vis-à-vis other trade partners, including the United States. Expect the United States to continue to lose market share in Colombia, a market we have traditionally dominated, even as the White House calls for a doubling of U.S. exports over a five-year period.
Many observers have complained that there is no trade agenda in the hemisphere. In fact, that’s incorrect. There is a huge trade agenda in the hemisphere. It’s just that, for the first time in history, the United States is sitting on the sidelines. Not only are we not leading the effort, we’re not even playing. It’s difficult to win at anything, in fact, if you’re not in the game, which is where we are right now with U.S. trade policy in the Americas.