November 18,2003

Baucus Praises Plans to Launch FTA Talks with Andean Countries

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Max Baucus today made the following statement inpraise of the announcement by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Zoellick that theUnited States plans to launch negotiations for a free trade agreement with the four Andeancountries – Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia:

“Earlier this year, I urged Ambassador Zoellick to consider a Free Trade Agreement withColombia. In light of the failed WTO ministerial in Cancun, it is more important than ever thatthe United States pursue free trade agreements with countries that offer significant commercialopportunities.

Colombia is one such a country. It is already the third largest purchaser of Americanagricultural products in the hemisphere. With further trade liberalization, an FTA with Colombiahas the potential to generate significant commercial benefits for American workers, farmers, andbusinesses.

Also including Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia in the FTA negotiations makes good sensebecause it adds to the commercial significance of the agreement and is an efficient use ofUSTR’s negotiating resources. With so many trade priorities vying for attention, I urge theUSTR to set up a negotiating structure that maximizes the potential efficiencies of engaging thefour Andean countries at once. That will leave more resources free to pursue our multilateralagenda in the WTO and the FTAA and to enforce existing trade agreements.

Today’s announcement is also important because it demonstrates how U.S. tradepreference programs can evolve over time into fully reciprocal free trade agreements. Whilesome claim that unilateral preferences make beneficiary countries reluctant to liberalize theirmarkets, experience shows the opposite to be true.

First the countries of the South African Customs Union – beneficiaries of tradepreferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act – and now the four beneficiarycountries of the Andean Trade Preferences Act have proved eager to negotiate comprehensivetrade agreements with the United States. I am confident that the same would be true of thepreference program that Senator McCain and I have proposed for the Middle East."