Monday, April 20, 2009

Hail Columbia

If President Obama is looking for an opportunity to tack to the center on the economic front, challenge liberal special interest groups, and show nervous free marketeers that he's more Clinton than Carter, free trade would seem to present an obvious opening. This report on New Movement on Colombia Trade Pact (WSJ sub req) is an encouraging sign:

President Barack Obama discussed a pending free-trade agreement with his Colombian counterpart Saturday and dispatched his trade representative to discuss U.S. concerns over Colombia's treatment of labor leaders.

At the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Mr. Obama asked to be seated next to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and the pair discussed the deal, U.S. officials said. During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama had voiced opposition to the pact, citing violence toward labor organizers in Colombia. The deal, which would allow free trade between the two nations, is awaiting ratification in the U.S. Senate and has already been approved by Colombia's congress.

Since taking office, Mr. Obama has struck a more-positive tone on free trade than he often did during the campaign. He and aides have spoken out against protectionism, and in Mexico last week he declined to raise the question of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite a pledge to do so last year.

I'll believe it when I see it, but if Mr. Obama does follow through and get a free-trade deal with Columbia done, he should be cheered. It's also nice to know that he spent at least some time at the Summit of the Americas talking with our allies and not our enemies.

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