Today in Latin America
Top Story — Leading Senate Republicans, a Fortune 500 company and a major newspaper are calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to send the proposed free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress immediately.
Accusing Obama of a “schizophrenic trade policy,” Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Orrin Hatch attacked the administration for delaying the submission of the agreements until lawmakers decide to renew the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program at or near 2009 levels. The five-decade old TAA program helps U.S workers who’ve lost their jobs because of foreign trade.
“At a time when 14 million Americans are looking for work, they actually want to hold off on these known job-creating agreements in exchange for a green light to spend more money. It’s astonishing,” McConnell said, according to Reuters.
The TAA was expanded in 2009 to around $1 billion a year and provides retraining and healthcare benefits for workers who have lost their job because of import competition or their jobs moving overseas. Republicans argue that the program wastes taxpayer money as Congress plans ways to cut the huge U.S. budget deficit and that it’s unfair that workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition get better unemployment benefits than most other workers.
The CEO of Cargill, an agricultural commodities business with $108 billion in sales last year, also asked Congress to approve the free-trade agreements in order to “stimulate economic growth, jobs and global food security.”
Besides the TAA, the Obama administration has also been reluctant to pass the free trade deals to Congress until a number of labor-related concerns in Colombia – such as the murder of unionists – have been resolved. Colombia is expected to complete its second round of labor-related issue requirements by June 15, which paves the way for the Obama administration to formally submit the accord to Congress.
In a Sunday editorial, The Washington Post asked Democrats and Republicans to put down their partisan divides or it could take years to undo the harm to the economy and to the reputation of U.S. trade policy.
“Unless this impasse breaks, the collateral damage could include previously uncontroversial legislation that has long promoted U.S. trade with other developing countries but has lapsed pending resolution of the dispute over South Korea, Colombia and Panama.” The Washington Post wrote. “It could take months or years to undo the resulting harm to the economy and to the reputation of U.S. trade policy.”
The free trade agreement with Colombia was signed by former U.S. President George W. Bush and former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe in 2006, but laid stagnant until earlier this year when Colombia and the U.S. agreed on trade reforms in the Andean nation.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- Contributing photographer John Sevigny left Mexico after a terrifying night of gunfire and grenades in Saltillo. Read his personal account here.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Texas Governor Rick Perry added a ban on sanctuary cities to the call of the current special session in the state’s legislature.
- Chrysler appointed Fred Díaz, current president and CEO of the Ram Truck Brand, as its president and CEO of Chrysler de Mexico, which includes responsibility for South America.
- Cuba and China signed in Havana 10 economic accords and memorandums of agreement in the areas of finance, oil, communications, information technology and other technical fields.
- The world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, located in Puerto Rico has received a five-year, multimillion-dollar funding commitment that new management says will allow scientists to probe the mysteries of imploded stars and maybe even lead to the detection of elusive gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein.
- Torrential rains lashed Haiti on Tuesday, flooding shanty towns, swamping the squalid camps erected after a 2010 earthquake and killing at least 23 people, officials said.
- Imprisoned members of Barrio 18, one of Central America’s most notorious gangs, have requested a dialogue with the Honduran government.
- The United Nations refugee agency Tuesday praised Panama’s decision to accede to two major international treaties on statelessness, a problem which affects up to 12 million people worldwide.
- Nicaragua condemned the sanctions imposed by the United States on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
- Colombia’s economic authorities are set to face a renewed spate of political pressure to curb a surging peso as booming foreign investment mixed with the global weakness of the dollar continue to bolster the local currency.
- Two soldiers have been missing since their boat sank over the weekend on river along the border with Peru in Ecuador’s jungle Orellana province, the army said.
- Venezuela’s national legislature began considering Tuesday President Hugo Chávez’s request to nearly double the government’s debt limit, a move that has economists concerned the country may be borrowing too much.
- Peru’s leftist President-elect Ollanta Humala said on Tuesday he is no copy of his one-time mentor, Venezuela’s firebrand leader Hugo Chávez, as Humala tried to reassure investors he will protect a long economic boom.
- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s powerful chief of staff Antonio Palocci resigned Tuesday amid an influence peddling scandal, a development that will undermine her ability to push her agenda through Congress.
- A second Chilean businessman was sentenced in absentia to prison in Cuba on charges of fraud, bribery and falsification of documents in a case related to the operation of a travel agency.
- The ash cloud from a volcano in Chile has reached the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, forcing airlines to cancel flights but not posing a risk to city residents.
- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will visit Uruguay to help the countries advance their “rich bilateral agenda” through investment and trade expansion.
Image: Chuck Kennedy @ Whitehouse.gov.