Thursday, March 16, 2006

The best advice Evo ever got ...

came from Uribe, who told Evo to start negotiating an FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with the US. Today, Evo answered: There is no chance whatsoever of him negotiating a FTA.

The roots of the news deal with Colombia's own FTA with the US. The US and Colombia agreed a Free Trade Agreement, which would allow Colombia to buy cheap soy from the US. Before the FTA, Colombia was the biggest market for Bolivian soy, as Bolivia was able to take advantage of the Andean Community's protective barriers. With these barriers in place, Bolivia was able to sell huge amounts of soy to Colombia at a cheaper price than its competitors. Obviously, with an FTA, American soy no longer has to pay tariffs to enter into Colombia and Bolivian producers will almost surely lose their market. The answer? Seeing how things work in Bolivia, nobody thought of trying to produce soy more efficiently and competitively; efforts went to try to stop Colombia from gaining the benefits Free Trade would create.

Evo asked Uribe to keep on buying Bolivian soy (read it here). Uribe, who is probably the only thinking president in the Andean Community, told Evo that the deal was closed and that it would benefit his country. He also suggested that he should do the same and bring the same benefits to Bolivians.

Evo, however, doesn't want to know about FTAs (read it here). In yet anoher case of the government giving mixed signals, Evo said that he would never ever negotiatie a Free Trade Agreement, just one day after Vice President Garcia Linera spoke of concentrating efforts on it. On the other hand, he spoke of an Agreement of Trade of the People (Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos, or TCP).

Now, nobody knows much about what the difference betweem the FTA and the TCP are. Evo is saying that a TCP would favour SMEs (small and medium enterprises), but it just sounds as a propaganda tool: In the end, Evo may be negotiating an FTA, but selling the Bolivian people the idea that he negotiated something completely different.

Update: Evo stated the importance of maintaining good relations with the US and has agreed to start talking about soy with both the US and Colombia. He is still talking in TCP rather than FTA terms, though. Read it here.

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