Posted by: David Kiley on November 11, 2008
If news reports this morning are correct, the Bush Administration is willing to trade a loan bailout for Detroit, which it has opposed, for a Congressional cave-in on a trade deal that will benefit the country of Colombia.
By mid-day, though, the White House was denying it expressed a quid pro quo to President-elect Barack Obama that would have him and Congress support the Colombia Free Trade Pact in exchange for Detroit aid.
Not Columbia, Maryland, mind you. Not Columbia South Carolina. The country of Colombia.
Remember when the presidential candidates were arguing over free-trade deals? The Colombia thing? The administration wants Congress to lift restrictions we have with the South American country that makes it tougher for U.S. companies to sell stuff there. The opposition by Congress isn’t centered on a potential loss of jobs in the U.S. In fact, Columbia export companies already have nearly total unrestricted access to the U.S. But it doesn’t work the other way.
Labor unions, a reliable Democratic voting bloc opposes the change. Opposition to the Colombia deal is not rooted in organized labor’s fear of lost jobs, the issue behind unions’ opposition to past trade deals like Nafta. It is over the killings of labor advocates and leaders in more than two decades of Colombia’s long civil wars.
According to the National Labor School, a research organization in Colombia, more than 2,500 union members have been killed since 1985, with fewer than 100 cases resulting in convictions.
Imports from Colombia totaled $9.4 billion in 2007, mostly oil, spices, coffee and tea. Exports of machinery, chemicals, plastics, corn and other goods to the country were $8.6 billion.
The election is over. Obama and House speaker Pelosi have long stood against the Columbia pact. But given the enormous impact of a GM or Chrysler banktruptcy on organized labor, the unions may just give the Democrats the cover they need to get a bill passed next week to save Detroit, even if it does wind up helping Colombia.