By a vote of 224 to 195, the House of Representatives on Thursday removed the 90 day time limit to act on the Colombian Free Trade Agreement that was sent to them by the Administration on Monday. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cited economic concerns as the reason behind the action.
"We certainly should do more for our economy before we pass another trade agreement," Pelosi says.
However Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer says the lack of action on the agreement is bad for the economy, in particular for farmers, citing trade as one of the most important factors to the strength of the agricultural economy.
"The trade situation between our countries has become one-sided, as Colombian food and agricultural products come into the U.S. with no duties whatsoever," Schafer says. "That's due to the Andean Trade Preference Act, which has been repeatedly reauthorized by Congress. In fact, just last month Congress passed this act by unanimous consent. Why is Congress willing to continue to allow Colombian products to enter the United States without tariffs but not willing to vote to have American exports to Colombia to go tariff free? I think that is a question Speaker Pelosi should answer."
While technically not dead, a vote on the Colombian FTA will likely be pushed back until after this year's election. Both Democratic Presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have said they will oppose the agreement.