I’m increasingly seeing arguments that the real importance of the Colombia trade deal is political, rather than economic. Colombia has made important strides over the past several years, and the Colombian government is our proxy of choice in South America enmeshed in conflict with guerillas backed by Hugo Chavez.
But there are two ways to read the security/trade linkage here. One would be that this deal is a favor to the Colombian government that we should do to bolster them. Another would be that this deal is a favor to the U.S. business enterprises who run the Bush administration that the Colombian government has agreed to in order to retain the support of the American security apparatus for their counterinsurgency. Interpretation one is getting all the press, but if you read the agreement the Colombians seems to be making almost all the policy changes, suggesting interpretation two. What’s more, though interpretation one is certainly the more high-minded argument to make in your magazine, blog post, or congressional speech argument two seems, if true, more convincing on the merits.