A few highlights from today's presentation by the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, William R. Brownfield, hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies and the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC:
1. The ambassador is really funny. I mean, almost hilarious.
2. He presented an interesting argument about why American taxpayers should support the Colombia FTA which seemed a little bit of a free association experiment rather than a thought out hypothesis. Let's see if you can follow...
- The U.S. government gives foreign aid to Colombia for Plan Colombia.
- If the agreement is passed there will be more U.S. investment in Colombia, thereby increasing Colombia's tax revenue base.
- If Colombia collects more taxes, they will pay for the things U.S. is now paying for in Plan Colombia.
- U.S. taxpayers will save money.
Of course, this argument relies on many assumptions, but when searching for new last ditch arguments to try to revive an almost buried NAFTA-expansion, it's not a totally terrible one, in contrast to arguments that USTR is making about job creation, etc. I mean still bad, but not as bad.
3. The ambassador noted that the issue of displacement "causes me more concerns than others," and admitted that he had "no good answer" and this would "have to be addressed." He also went as far to say that he doesn't know "why they are being driven from their home communities," and that this is a "security issue." In fact, as the Colombian government’s own agriculture ministry concluded, displaced people “would have no more than three options: migration to the cities or to other countries (especially the United States), working in drug cultivation zones, or affiliating with illegal armed groups.”
When shilling for an expansion of NAFTA's rules which displaced millions in Mexico, some of these answers might be good ones to have on hand. This is especially true in the case of Colombia where displacements will continue to happen and the FTA may exacerbate the problem with investment rules that lock in land seizures and favor corporate privileges over the rights of the displaced.