Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Needs an FTA When You Have an, Errrrr, "Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality"?

I've spent a lot of time here chronicling the depressing story that is the Colombian government's extensive-yet-utterly-futile efforts to secure congressional passageconsideration of the US-Colombia FTA.  In short, the Colombians have spent millions of dollars lobbying for the FTA, have undergone massive domestic reforms, have allowed US congressman and other officials to snootily judge firsthand their domestic (particularly labor) improvements, and have received nothing but empty administration promises and baseless congressional insults in return.  Here's how I put it last year:
The US-Colombia FTA was completed and signed on November 22, 2006.  Since that time, American exporters have paid approximately $1.9 million per day in Colombian tariffs that they wouldn't have paid if the Democrat-controlled Congress had just passed the FTA back then and thus allowed it to enter into force. By my math, that means that Congress' and (now) the President's partisan stalling has resulted in a pointless tax on American businesses of almost $2 billion ($1.9798 billion = 1042 days times $1.9 million) and counting.  Meanwhile, one of our closest allies in Latin America has bent over backwards to get the agreement passed, holding hundreds of public meetings, working hard to (successfully) reduce domestic labor union violence, and countering Hugo Chavez' viral influence in the region.  Heck, the Colombians even sponsored a massive public art campaign here in Washington, DC in an attempt to improve public sentiment about their country. 
Sadly, only the tab has changed since I wrote that.  (It's been another 356 days, which is another $676.4 million in needless tariffs and brings the grand total to 2.6562 billion dollars!).

Well, actually, that's not the only thing:
In January 2010, the United States and Colombia signed the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality. The Action Plan recognizes the important contributions of African–descendent and indigenous peoples and seeks to elevate recognition of their cultures in both countries....

The Action Plan focuses on sharing best practices and implementing programs to address social barriers that affect Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. These barriers include lack of continuity, quality, access, and participation in education; low participation and representation in democratic institutions; limited opportunities in the labor market; structural racism; and multiple forms of discrimination...

The Action Plan's Steering Group held its first meeting June 2, 2010, in Bogotá. U.S. and Colombian government representatives evaluated current assistance programs in Colombia for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. The two governments agreed to establish working groups to discuss the make-up of the plenary group and an agenda for the first plenary session, to be held in October 2010....

The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs launched its Race, Ethnicity, and Social Inclusion Unit in July 2010 to coordinate the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan and similar initiatives in the region.
Problem.  Solved.

No comments: