Why no to the FTA?

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Authors

By Cecilia López Montaño
celopezm@aol.com
Image: Port of Puerto Colombia, by Santiago Carmona.
Translated by Albeiro Rodas.

Bogotá. It was the Liberal governments the ones that started during the 90’s the economic opening of the country; therefore, the negative position in front to the actual Free Trade Agreement with the United States in anyway is due to any ideological consideration. Colombia has to be integrated in the world market but in an efficient way, with the capacity to manage these processes in a way ready to guarantee that winners and losers in the trade agreements shall not be the same as always and that the country shall not be given to the interests of the others. Therefore, It is recognized that Colombia has come into what is known as the second step of globalization, the one of the Free Trade Agreements.

Many defend that the free trade agreement is the door of happiness, but the main point to this is that this one does not exist and those who announces it are those who subside wide sectors of the internal production. For these reason it is a priority to identify the more efficient way to insert the country in the world trade. As it is stated by Pascal Lamy, director of the World Trade Organization, that for countries like Colombia it is better to become part of multilateral negotiations where rich countries find difficult to impose their wills. To this respect he said: “A world based on bilateral agreements does not favor the interests of the developing countries”. However, the true is that thanks to the complexity and inefficiency of the multilateral negotiations, it is imposed the bilateral agreements, especially among rich and poor countries. In this reality comes out a fact: the way as those agreements are been negotiated and the measures that every country takes to affront the challenges that those commercial agreements impose, define the success or failure of those strategies for those with more power in the negotiation. Despite that it is in the agenda of Colombia various bilateral agreements like the one signed with Chile, it is obvious that the one with much priority for the Government is the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The reasons are well know: it is the main partner of this country.

A serious analyses of this Agreement, signed on November 22, 2006, made during more than five months and after unnumbered consultations with the experts in the most crucial subjects – consigned in the Communication of the Liberal Party -, it states three big worries that, far from being resolved, seem to become worsen every day. The first, and without doubt the most serious, is referred to a sad reality: Colombia negotiated very bad, even worst than Peru, worst than the Central American countries, worst than Morocco and worst than Australia. Thanks to what some analysts have called the “partial innocence “, United States affirmed that the agreement with Colombia must be a model for coming negotiations because it guarantees more benefits to products and American investment.

In this Agreement were unknown the strengths of the opponent and it was not taken account – like United States did at its side -, with a judicial context to serve as a frame for the negotiations; there were not enough studies to identify winners and losers in order to proceed to design the convenient strategies and there was not a consultation to the experience of other countries as it was done by Peru. The Government hurried to give up fundamental instruments like the strips of agriculture prices, something that Chile did not do for example, and it sacrificed the rural sector, like Morocco did. Spaces were let open to benefit the medicines’ multinationals, something that Australia did not do, and it allowed the commercialization of the Colombian biodiversity. But perhaps one of the most serious facts consists in not seeing the consequences of the clause of Cancellation and Reduction included in the FTA that generates the necessity of compensation to the products and American investors when a Colombian norm, even anyone not included in the Agreement, could alter their gain expectations. In addition, it was accepted the capacity of management of the Banco de la República to face the entrance of capitals at short term, an instrument used nowadays to restrain the revaluation and, being the first recommendation done by Stiglitz to Colombia three years ago, the Government ignored.

With the approval of the FTA, the Government and the Bank will not be able to act with the same facility of today. These are only some of the bad results of a negotiation guided by the famous declaration of President Uribe in which affirmed that the he shall sign the FTA “against rays and flashes ”and that it must be done “quickly, very quickly”.

The second reason to say no to this FTA is the real lack of an Internal Agenda that starts from recognize what is obvious, that there will be winners and losers and that it required big national efforts to minimize costs and maximize gains. The priorities of the Government are contradictory and focus more in the reinforcement of the Democratic Security that in increase the national capacity to compete with the new economic challenge. Where are the required infrastructures or the resources and mechanisms to implement in a quick way when there is a Ministry of Transport that even is questioned by the same Uribists? Where are the real politics to do the productive transformation that improves the Colombian production that is depressing? Where are the strategies to prepare the required human capital to produce not only with low salaries but also with quality? Where are those efforts with the worst Plan of Development that the country has ever had, with no orientation, with no money and full of monkeys to satisfy the politic appetites and violate the legal norms like in the case of the Agrarian Reform and the Social Security?

As it was not enough, the third reason is an unfavorable macroeconomic context for the commercial liberalization that is not being recognized by the Government. It is ignored that the country passed already for an opening of revaluation and that in such process a million of hectares were lost as many small and middle companies too.

Why to vote in favor of the FTA? Because the Republicans are concern that the only Uribist support could be understood in the United States like a FTA supported by the paramilitary. This is the information at firs hand. Therefore, the liberal vote cleans it, can you imagine? In addition the three exposed reasons in the exposition became worst; the Democrats are going to improve the things concern with medicines but they make the labor and environmental subjects and impediment for the Colombian exportations and still to discuss about the specific exigencies that they are going to do to Colombia. It is today more evident that the Internal Agenda is a declaration and that the Government shows unable to manage the revaluation, the excess of costs, inflations and unemployment showing that the macroeconomic sector is worsening.

Just because the idea that Colombia must sign commercial agreements with different countries of the world and particularly with the United States in order to come inside successfully in a global world being able to manage in an autonomous way its own global process, it is a duty to refuse to sign the FTA due to the irresponsible way it was managed, due to the lack of internal preparation and the negativity to the actual macroeconomic context. I do share therefore neither the opportunity nor the positive vote of the majorities of the liberal party and, fortunately for the bases of the Party, I am not alone in this position. Some Senators like Luís Fernando Velasco and surely other Congressmen that voted against, share the same frustration for an inopportune decision, ignoring reasons and going against the demands of those without voice who believe in the Party and who will be the losers of a commercial agreement managed in a bad way.

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