The future of a long-stalled free trade agreement with the U.S. is “very uncertain” because of the U.S. debt crisis and a growing polarization between Democrats and Republicans, said Colombia’s ambassador to Washington Saturday, adding that his country is “a hostage of the crisis.”
Until recently, both Colombian and U.S. officials estimated that the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, signed in 2006, would be ratified by U.S. Congress in September, but according to Colombian ambassador Gabriel Silva this has become very uncertain amid a growing polarization between Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2012 presidential elections.
“We have to work under very adverse circumstances, in a polarized environment because of the election campaign, and in a belligerent context try to keep the FTA out of that fight,” Silva told newspaper El Tiempo.
“We are working to make them understand that the FTA can not be part of that polarization. In a sense we are hostages of the political belligerence in the United States. We are looking how to free ourselves from this. How can we get the treaty our of this polarization? That is the task. Whether we succeed or not is the question,” Silva said.
The Colombian ambassador said he hopes “reason wins” and U.S. Congress will vote on the FTA as promised, but “the most important lesson we have learned over the past few days is that Washington is unpredictable.”
“The FTA did not exist as a possibility six months ago, despite the immense efforts of the former government [of Alvaro Uribe]. Only a few weeks ago, in a mock vote, it was approved. Obama said: ‘I will present the treaty on Friday,’ and Monday he affirms ‘We can’t now.’ Why? Because other conflict, provoked by the sheer political polarization, which if even dividing the parties itself, shocked. This has not been seen in many years,” said the Colombian ambassador.
Despite Colombia’s obvious discomfort wit the delay in approving a free trade agreement with the U.S., the Andean country is in no rush to have the treaty approved, said Silva. “Colombia has an important market and we’re becoming increasingly wealthy. We can negotiate with whatever country in the world. With or without the U.S., with of without FTA.”