Friday, November 24, 2006

The Diminishing Trade Picture

Yesterday's Washington Post discusses how the new congress is likely to affect our southern neighbors:

Latin Americans Wonder If Democrats Are Traders
Anxiety High Over Stance of Incoming Congress

MEDELLIN, Colombia -- At the CI Jeans factory, where 3,900 people make their livings turning bolts of denim into trousers bound for the United States, the American market -- land of the customer -- appears to be slipping away.

In September, with a proposed trade deal between Colombia and the United States uncertain and orders flagging, the factory fired 320 workers. Now, the pact appears to be in peril. Democrats are set to take control of the U.S. Congress, speaking for a segment of the American public that is worried about globalization. The incoming leaders have pledged to redraft the terms of global trade.

Yesterday, the Bush administration signed the proposed deal, but leading Democrats promptly attacked it, underscoring growing doubts in Washington that Congress will approve the pact. Here in Colombia and next door in Peru, which awaits congressional approval for its own trade treaty, anxiety runs high.

"We watch the news and we're nervous about what might happen with what we send to the United States," said Janeth Palacio Ramirez, 35, who supports her 15-year-old daughter and her elderly parents by punching zipper stops onto 7,000 pairs of jeans a day, earning about $200 a month. "Everything we make here goes there, so if there are problems with exports, we'll all lose our jobs."

As Democrats prepare to reshape U.S. trade policy, the impact is being felt far from the Carolina mill towns and rust-belt factories that are a perennial focus of domestic concern.

Addressing fears that too many jobs are being sacrificed at home, the new Democratic leadership wants to slow the worldwide effort, which the United States has led since 1947, to lower import tariffs that hinder trade.

Sad news indeed.