Boehner: U.S. Must Insist Other Nations Follow Trade Law

Billy House

The United States and its Latin American neighbors are entering into an “important moment for the prosperity of our hemisphere” through trade agreements and other hopes for lasting engagement, says Speaker John Boehner.

But the Ohio Republican warns that some governments in that region have shown “an alarming willingness” to drift from the rule of law and respect for their obligations and international norms, and that Iran also represents a major threat to democracy and prosperity in Latin America. Iran has made “little attempt to disguise its global ambitions, or its interest in gaining a foothold in Latin America that can serve as a base of support for those ambitions,” according to excerpts of a speech Boehner is set to deliver (at 10:30 a.m.) this morning.

Boehner’s remarks are to come after he receives an award at the Council of the America’s 42nd Washington Conference for his role in the enactment of trade agreements last year with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The council is a business organization consisting of international companies from a wide range of sectors focused on economic development in Latin America. The event is being held at the Department of State.

A main thrust of Boehner’s speech, according to his office, will be to outline his vision for continued U.S. engagement with Latin American allies who are described as those who share a commitment to democracy, security and free-market economy. He also is to discuss the importance of free trade – and will push for new trade efforts such as renewing Trade Promotion Authority.

“When the Colombia Free Trade Agreement enters into force this month, it will be an important moment for the prosperity of our hemisphere. It is equally important that the Panama Free Trade Agreement be fully implemented in the months ahead,” according to selected excerpts of the speech released early by Boehner’s office.  But the excerpts show Boehner will add that, “I'm disappointed the Administration has not moved to build on these achievements by seeking Trade Promotion Authority.  TPA would help to ensure continued expansion of free trade and open markets, to support job creation here at home and abroad.”

Boehner also will suggest that while the United States will “not disengage in the fight for free markets and free secure people,” that it “must also be clear about what we expect from all of our neighbors.”

“We will insist that every nation honor the rule of law, meet its obligations, and respect international norms.  That means paying debts to bondholders; honoring legal commitments and the decisions made by international arbiters; and respecting private property.” He will say that some governments in the region “have demonstrated an alarming willingness to drift away from such norms when it suits their objectives.”

“When this occurs, it's harmful not only to the people of those countries, but to the potential of all of the Americas.  And it cannot be excused,” Boehner is to tell his audience.

Boehner also will express concern about the threat he see Iran as posing to the region. He is to note that the same week he and other members of Congress in early January were visiting Brazil, Colombia and Mexico – Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  was being hosted by Venezuela and Cuba, which Boehner describes as nations with governments that have been linked to state-sponsored terrorism and have isolated themselves internationally

Boehner is to say that Ahmadinejad’s trip “underscored the designs Iran has for expanding its influence in Latin America, and its eagerness to forge bonds with governments in the Western Hemisphere that have demonstrated a lesser interest in freedom and democracy.”