Impacts of new U.S. trade deals questioned
As their governments cheer free-trade deals struck with the United States, environmental advocates from Colombia and Panama are warning that the recently ratified agreements could undermine green legislation in their countries and prompt a surge in environmentally destructive projects.
The Oct. 12 approval by the U.S. Congress of free-trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea is seen as a victory for the administration of President Barack Obama, which had promoted them as a way to boost U.S. exports and jobs. Colombia and Panama have ratified their respective agreements with the United States, and authorities in both countries forecast significant economic benefits.
Panamanian officials expect greater U.S. investment in their country’s mining industry and say U.S. companies will now have an easier time bidding for contracts in the US$5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. Colombian officials, for their part, estimate that within five years the liberalized trade could triple Colombia’s U.S.-bound exports to around $50 billion per year, create nearly 400,000 jobs and boost U.S. investment in Colombian sectors including mining, oil and biofuels.