On Free Trade With Colombia

Nicholas Kristof slams those go-it-alone-cowboys who oppose the proposed trade pact with Colombia but then he notes:

Some Democrats claim that they are against the pact because Colombia has abused human rights. Those concerns are legitimate — but they shouldn’t be used to punish people like Norma Reynosa, a 35-year-old woman who just may snip the flowers that go into the Mother’s Day bouquet that you buy … One reason is those bouquets you buy, entering duty-free from Colombia. These days Colombia is the world’s second-largest exporter of flowers after the Netherlands, and almost 200,000 people work in the flower industry. Up to 28 cargo planes a day carry flowers from Colombia to the U.S. Better carnations than cocaine, no? Critics of the free-trade pact worry that it would hurt American workers. But Colombian goods already enter the U.S. duty-free; what would change is that American exporters would get access to the Colombian market.

Did you get that? We currently don’t impose tariffs on imports from Colombia. So how is maintaining the status quo punishing Norma Reynosa? And I just don’t get this close:

One of President Bush’s most costly actions was his flat rejection of the Kyoto climate treaty; it symbolized a my-way-or-the-highway approach that bolstered anti-Americanism around the world. If the Colombia free-trade pact is rejected and the U.S. backs away from its commitment to expanding trade, that may be the Democrats’ equivalent of Kyoto, signaling a retreat from internationalism. It would be seen as the United States thumbing its nose at the world.

Are we thumbing our noses by having no tariffs – or just by not promising never to have tariffs in the future? But to be fair, going from a policy of no tariffs on Colombian imports to no tariffs on Colombian imports isn’t going exactly to cost lots of American jobs, while getting Colombia to lower its tariffs may boost our exports just a wee bit.