Friday, November 4, 2011

Two articles: Colombia's Free Trade Agreement and the rural keys to ending the civil war

Here is an article on the Free Trade Agreement recently signed between the US and Colombia. The author argues that the new treaty has few benefits for Colombia (exports will grow by 6%, while job-destroying imports will grow by 12%). It will severely undercut the nation's agricultural sector, and even compromise Colombia's national sovereignty thanks to a clause whereby foreign private companies can sue the Colombian government in a private court if they feel their earnings aren't as high as they should be.

In general, Colombia hasn't taken the proper measures to improve its competitivity on the global stage, so rushing into a free trade agreement is foolhardy, especially when Colombia already enjoyed low-tariff access to the US market for many products. Infrastructure is a particularly weak point that drags down every sector of the Colombian economy. The author summarizes that the free trade agreement is bad business for Colombia. He rips apart the Interior Minister's claim that "the best way to learn how to swim is to jump in the water," by comparing Colombia's situation to jumping into an empty pool from an Olympic-height diving platform.

Here is an article by Alejandro Reyes, expert in Colombia's land tenure issues. He identifies 5 rural issues as key to solving the country's internal conflict. They are:
  • insecurity in rural areas
  • concentration of land in few hands
  • informality of peasants' title to property
  • weak institutions and lack of government presence in rural areas
  • lack of rural development
Reyes claims that by addressing these five points Colombia can create a lasting return of land to its rightful peasant owners, and thus defuse the armed conflict. However, this essentially amounts to making a political decision to take land back from those who have illegally taken it. These people are well-armed and recalcitrant, so the measures Reyes recommends will not be easy.

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