Sunday, June 10, 2018

Bilateral Trade Pacts: US / Colombia & EU / Russia

Bilateral trade deals look set to multiply exponentially as the Doha round flounders. It goes without saying that if countries didn't find benefits from trade, they wouldn't be so keen on engaging in trade pacts. Commentators such as WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy have noted the proliferation of such deals, and the trend looks like it won't die down anytime soon. Today, though, we look at two deals which are challenged by domestic factors. In the case of US - Colombia, American lawmakers have become increasingly sceptical about trade's benefits. In the case of EU - Russia, the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia may herald a cooling of relations between the West and Russia.

Largely overlooked during this time of America-sourced financial turmoil is that Bush talked about the ongoing crisis while Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was paying the White House a visit. Alongside the usual paeans to the benefits of trade, Bush took pains to mention the strides made by Colombia in meeting environmental and labour standards which the Democratically-controlled US Congress prizes. Plus, like Pervez Musharraf back in the day, Uribe is a full-fledged ally in the war on terra:

Today, President and Mrs. Bush are hosting President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. Colombia is a strategic ally of the United States, and this visit underscores the deep friendship and extensive cooperation between the United States and Colombia. The two leaders will discuss a range of issues, including their shared commitments to the U.S.-Colombia FTA, reducing violence, and increasing peace and security in Colombia and democracy throughout the region.

President Bush submitted legislation to implement the Colombia FTA to Congress for approval in April 2008, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to allow it to come to a vote. Passage of legislation to implement the FTA would demonstrate U.S. support for an important ally and help cement the gains made by President Uribe, who has worked closely with the United States to accommodate concerns, including revising the FTA to include rigorous labor and environmental protections.

* President Uribe is a strong and effective partner in fighting crime and improving safety for labor unionists. Since President Uribe took office in 2002, the Colombian government has reported dramatic reductions in homicides (down 40 percent), kidnappings (83 percent), and terrorist attacks (76 percent). Homicides of labor unionists dropped 80 percent, from 186 in 2002 to 39 in 2007. Since 2002, Colombia has also extradited more than 720 criminal suspects – mostly for drug trafficking – to the United States.

* The U.S.-Colombia FTA will advance our national security. President Uribe's Administration has fought terrorists, demobilized paramilitaries, and stood strong against hostile anti-American states and forces in Latin America. An impressive example of President Uribe's leadership came during July, when members of the Colombian military successfully rescued 15 hostages – including three Americans – held captive by the FARC. It is in America's interest to support Colombia in the face of these threats, and the best way to do so is for Congress to allow a vote on the FTA legislation.
Meanwhile, the delayed dance between the EU and Russia looks set to continue after Russia meets some preconditions set by the EU with regard to the ongoing conflict in Georgia. As Western Europe relies quite a bit on Russian energy, the outcome here carries weight:
The European Union may start talks with Russia on a new trade agreement next month should Russia fulfill its commitments under a plan to end fighting over a breakaway Georgian region, the French premier said.

There are ``no reasons'' why the talks on a new accord shouldn't start in October if Russia honors the so-called Sarkozy- Medvedev plan, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told a press conference today with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy brokered a peace plan with Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev to end five days of fighting in August after Russian forces entered South Ossetia in response to a Georgian attempt to retake it. The EU suspended talks Sept. 1 on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and Putin said today that the Russian government was ready for new negotiations.

``We are ready to continue this work,'' Putin said. ``It wasn't us who stopped it.''

Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, on Aug. 26, a decision Fillon said France disagreed with. Medvedev pledged to remove all Russian troops from Georgian territory within a month of a Sept. 8 accord with Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Fillon and Putin were in Sochi, the host of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, for a forum on Russia's investment climate, which has been tarnished by the Georgian conflict and a shareholder spat over BP Plc's Russian venture...

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