Commentary Magazine


Topic: Pepsi

Hopeful Signs on U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord — Finally

It’s nice to see Secretary of Defense Bob Gates endorse the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord, which remains stalled in Congress primarily owing to labor-union opposition. It’s even nicer to read that President Obama may be having a change of heart on the issue:

President Obama was skeptical about the agreement as a senator and during his presidential campaign, citing Colombia’s record of labor crackdowns. But after meeting last year with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Obama said Bogota had made progress on human rights issues and ordered U.S. trade officials to move ahead on the deal.

I only hope that this translates into active administration support for the accord on Capitol Hill.  Not only is it in our strategic interest — Colombia is our closest ally in Latin America and a key bulwark against drug traffickers, Marxist rebels, and other threats, such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela — but it is also in our economic interest, because it would boost American exports.

As this Commerce Department fact sheet points out, “for over 16 years, Colombian businesses have paid virtually nothing to export to the United States. Colombian goods enter our market under various U.S. trade preference programs that give Colombian businesses duty-free access to U.S. consumers. In 2007, over 91 percent of Colombian exports to the U.S. market entered duty-free.” Meanwhile, “every single day, about $2 million dollars in taxes are placed on a variety of U.S. exports sent to the Colombian market, effectively undermining the competitiveness of American products.” For instance, while Colombian coffee arrives in the U.S. duty-free, a bottle of Pepsi is taxed 20 percent in Colombia.

It is hard to see any logical argument for maintaining this disparity. While various fig leaves have been advanced about supposed human-rights violations in Colombia, the reality is that President Alvaro Uribe has dramatically improved the human-rights situation by beating back FARC rebels and their narco-trafficking allies. There is no good reason to oppose the accord. It’s simply raw politics on the part of protectionist American labor unions, and Obama has aided them for too long.

No indication yet of any change in the administration position regarding the U.S.-Panama Trade Accord or the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, two other agreements with key allies that are very much in our interest but that are being blocked by Democratic politicians. Perhaps if Obama makes a personal commitment to these treaties, which were signed by his predecessor, he might do a little to dispel the common impression of his foreign policy — namely that, as one wag put it, “if you’re our enemy, we’re sorry; if you’re our ally, you’re sorry.”

It’s nice to see Secretary of Defense Bob Gates endorse the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord, which remains stalled in Congress primarily owing to labor-union opposition. It’s even nicer to read that President Obama may be having a change of heart on the issue:

President Obama was skeptical about the agreement as a senator and during his presidential campaign, citing Colombia’s record of labor crackdowns. But after meeting last year with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Obama said Bogota had made progress on human rights issues and ordered U.S. trade officials to move ahead on the deal.

I only hope that this translates into active administration support for the accord on Capitol Hill.  Not only is it in our strategic interest — Colombia is our closest ally in Latin America and a key bulwark against drug traffickers, Marxist rebels, and other threats, such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela — but it is also in our economic interest, because it would boost American exports.

As this Commerce Department fact sheet points out, “for over 16 years, Colombian businesses have paid virtually nothing to export to the United States. Colombian goods enter our market under various U.S. trade preference programs that give Colombian businesses duty-free access to U.S. consumers. In 2007, over 91 percent of Colombian exports to the U.S. market entered duty-free.” Meanwhile, “every single day, about $2 million dollars in taxes are placed on a variety of U.S. exports sent to the Colombian market, effectively undermining the competitiveness of American products.” For instance, while Colombian coffee arrives in the U.S. duty-free, a bottle of Pepsi is taxed 20 percent in Colombia.

It is hard to see any logical argument for maintaining this disparity. While various fig leaves have been advanced about supposed human-rights violations in Colombia, the reality is that President Alvaro Uribe has dramatically improved the human-rights situation by beating back FARC rebels and their narco-trafficking allies. There is no good reason to oppose the accord. It’s simply raw politics on the part of protectionist American labor unions, and Obama has aided them for too long.

No indication yet of any change in the administration position regarding the U.S.-Panama Trade Accord or the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, two other agreements with key allies that are very much in our interest but that are being blocked by Democratic politicians. Perhaps if Obama makes a personal commitment to these treaties, which were signed by his predecessor, he might do a little to dispel the common impression of his foreign policy — namely that, as one wag put it, “if you’re our enemy, we’re sorry; if you’re our ally, you’re sorry.”

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Dowd Dumps Obama

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

Read Less




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