Commentary: Some signs of progress on free trade

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Sometime in the last few weeks, the Washington logjam over negotiating a free trade agreement with Colombia and other countries appears to have broken, at long last. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has signaled that the Obama administration is ready to move forward on these long-stalled pacts. He then warned against "setting the bar too high'" in working out pending issues between the United States on the one hand, and Panama, Colombia and South Korea — all of whom have pending trade deals in Congress.

Although it is too early to declare victory in the effort to overcome the protectionist sentiment that has kept these agreements bottled up in Congress, these are the most encouraging signs thus far that the administration is committed to promoting free trade. Many Democrats in Congress and their allies in the labor movement remain skeptical about the usefulness of free-trade agreements.

Still, President Obama, who talked tough against special trade pacts during the campaign, appears to have decided as president that their virtues far outweigh their liabilities.

Trade with Colombia is a particular concern because it is a proven ally of the United States in the volatile Andes region of Latin America. Under President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia has made significant strides in stabilizing the country's political, economic and security situation.

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