WASHINGTON D.C. - In an unprecedented move to wipe out a long standing requirement in American trade law, the House of Representatives yesterday (Thursday) indefinitely postponed action on the U.S. Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.
The measure was approved along a largely party line vote of 224 to 195.
"I'm disappointed my colleagues chose to salute Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi's unprecedented anti-trade move rather than stand up for the one-in-three Washington jobs tied to trade," Congressman Doc Hastings said after the vote.
Hastings explained that since 1991, many products from Colombia have enjoyed open and duty-free access into American markets due to the one-way trade concessions bill known as the Andean Trade Preferences Act. However, U.S. exports to Colombia face steep tariffs. In fact, said the Central Washington lawmaker, many farm exports to Colombia face an average 30 percent tariff, many of which would disappear immediately upon approval of the Colombia agreement currently before Congress.
In a speech on the House floor Hastings (R-Pasco) noted that the agreement would immediately eliminate tariffs on many Washington state products, including apples, beef, cherries, pears, potatoes and wheat.
"What better way to stimulate our nation's economy than to level the playing field and wipe out unfair trade barriers for our farmers?" Hastings said.
Hastings said that Thursday's action could derail the agreement with Colombia, and dramatically weaken Americans' ability to expand trade in other foreign markets.
The U.S. Colombia Free Trade Agreement has been awaiting congressional action since it was signed on Nov. 22, 2006. The Agreement has broad support from many in the agricultural business community, said Hastings, including the Washington State Potato Commission, the U.S. Apple Association, the Washington State Farm Bureau, Microsoft, Boeing, the Northwest Horticultural Council, the National Potato Council, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Cattleman's Beef Association.
In his address to Congress, Hastings said, "We need to stop this unprecedented attempt to rewrite trade law and jeopardize trade fairness for America's farmers.
"Washington is the most trade dependent state in the nation. One in three Washington jobs is tied to international trade.
"Since 1991, Colombia has had open, free entry into the U.S. for many products - while steep tariffs block our farmers' access into Colombia," Hastings said.
He added that what the House is now considering is an effort to delay, to hide, and to slam the door shut on fair and free trade that millions of American jobs depend on.