The result of the United States congressional elections on Tuesday could determine whether or not a pending Free Trade Agreement with Colombia will be approved by the U.S. Congress in the near future, said El Tiempo on Monday.
The Republican party is expected to gain enough seats in the House of Representatives to take the majority in the chamber. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, one of the FTA’s strongest opposers, will lose her leadership position if Republicans take over. She’ll be replaced by the current Republican Minority Leader John Boehner, who has said he supports trade agreements.
FTAs have widely found bipartisan support in the U.S., but a tough economic climate with an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent has made trade a complicated issue for the country. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in September found that 53 percent of respondents thought that free trade agreements have hurt the country, a figure up from 30 percent in 1999. Eighty-six percent of respondents found outsourcing of U.S. jobs to foreign country to be a contributing factor to the struggling economy, but legislation proposed by Democrats in the Senate to deter U.S. companies from outsourcing jobs failed to reach the floor for a vote.
One of the pollsters who conducted the survey said that the discrepancy between U.S. public opinion against FTAs and politician’s longtime bipartisan support of the policies is “one of the largest rifts” between the the public and politicians.
The U.S.-Colombia FTA was signed in 2006 but has failed to pass in the U.S. Congress due to human rights and labor concerns expressed by Democrats. U.S. President Barack Obama supports the deal and called for its passing in his January State of the Union Speech. Following the speech, Republicans from the House of Representatives said in a statement: “We hope that the President will follow through on his commitment to finish the South Korea agreement and that he will also challenge Democrats in Congress to begin work on Colombia and Panama.”
Obama’s support of the deal could help him in a 2012 reelection bid by demonstrating more central views, El Tiempo also reported.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has repeatedly called on Obama and the U.S. Congress to pass the deal, and Vice President Angelino Garzon will travel to Washington this month to lobby in support of the FTA. He will meet with Congress members and update them on the country’s progress on defending human rights and protecting unions, which are among the biggest concerns for Democratic politicians.