Friday, April 25, 2008


I was watching a bit of the Colombian news tonight on Caracol Internacional when one of the reports focused on the brouhaha over ratifying the U.S.-Colombia free trade pact. During the news piece (which I unfortunately cannot find online) the reporter claimed that the talks over the agreement where (and I'm slightly paraphrasing here):

The most contentious free trade agreement in the history of the United States.


Have we not forgotten the firestorm over NAFTA roughly 15 years ago? In the days before up-to-the-nanosecond news and a plethora of blogs the discussion over NAFTA seemed to be out of control. I even remember that it was a huge deal when Al Gore and Ross Perot debated the pros and cons of NAFTA on CNN. The tension was thick ebough to cut with a machete, and more so when Gore gave Perot a framed photo of Senators Smoot and Hawley as a "gift." (Yes, those were the architects behind the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930).

Then again, Caracol's reports are pretty solid...if you agree wholeheartedly with the free trade deal. With such a complex issue, the network's report can boil down to free trade/Republicans = good, while tariffs/Democrats = bad. Therefore, to emphasize hyperbole makes sense for Caracol. Unfortunately, it is ultimately to the detriment of the viewer.

By the way, before some of you get this idea that I'm some pinko/Commie/red, allow me to clarify a few things:
  1. Between the two options I believe that free trade is a better option than protectionism.
  2. Yet not all free trade agreements work alike; the pacts between the U.S. and Chile or Peru allow for better guarantees to labor and worker's rights than the one with Colombia.
  3. Both Democrats and the GOP have done an awful job of treating the agreement as a political hot potato. President Bush miscalculated horribly by thinking he could get away with trying to ram it down Congress' throat and the White House argument that no free trade = a victory for Chavez/populists is woefully misguided. At the same time, the Democrats are doing a terrible job arguing against free trade as a concept and are perpetuating the notion that they are not "friends" of Colombia.
  4. What should be done? Hopefully cooler heads can prevail after the presidential elections in November and both parties can rationally analyze the pact. I feel that the agreement needs to be renegotiated (see item #2) yet the benefits of a free trade pact outweigh the negatives.
Maybe I'm correct or maybe I'm wrong. One thing is for certain: hyperboles are oversimplified distortions.

Prologue (May 26, 2008): It occurred to me this morning that there's a kink to my argument over hyperbole and the past controversy over NAFTA.

Wasn't the gesture of Al Gore giving Ross Perot the "gift" of the framed Smoot/Hawley picture on CNN the epitome of hyperbole? Could that be the reason why I seemed to recall that moment more than other discussions or arguments over NAFTA in the early 90s?

I wonder...

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