One of the reasons our economy enjoyed continuous economic growth throughout the 1990s was because President Clinton kept his campaign promise to get free trade agreements ratified. In his first act of political courage and steadfastness in the White House, he dared defy part of the Democratic base by standing firm on the North American American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which he helped push through Congress in 1993.
The following year he “convened Congress to ratify” the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an agreement which further reduced barriers to international commerce.
Now, it looks like his successor is be following in his footsteps. While most people were paying attention to the theatrics of anti-American demagogues at the Summit of the Americas, the President made some quiet, but quite possibly significant gestures, to one of our closest allies in the hemisphere, President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. After listening to Uribe:
Obama then seemed to realize that the long-stalled Colombia free trade agreement should have been passed yesterday.
The president announced that his team must find a way to pass the agreement. With world trade down 80%, the pact opens new markets to the U.S. He demanded immediate action, asking Colombia’s trade minister to fly to Washington this week.
Then it got even better: Obama invited Uribe to the White House and promised to visit Colombia himself, allowing the Colombians to lay out for him their vast economic and social progress, and their desire to integrate into global trade.
Good move, Mr. President. You’re building on the success of your two immediate predecessors, Clinton for promoting free trade and Bush for forging a strong relationship with Uribe.