Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The strongest argument that can be made for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is not that it is good for Colombia but that it is good for us. The U.S. has few barriers to trade, so currently most of Colombia's exports enter the U.S. with few or no restrictions. But Colombia has many barriers to our goods. This is what opponents of the agreement can't seem to grasp: The Free Trade Agreement will remove Colombia's barriers to U.S. goods. Of course Colombia will benefit economically but we will benefit more.
The second strongest argument is that our friends and enemies in this hemisphere are watching how we treat a loyal ally that is being threatened from many sides. If we do not pass this agreement, Mr. Speaker, and it is clearly in our interest to do so, the only possible conclusion that these countries can come to is that we made a deliberate choice to back away from an ally at this most crucial and critical time.
Mr. Speaker, this debate should be more about how this agreement will impact in a positive way our U.S. economy. An honest debate can have only one outcome--strong support for passage of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and as soon as possible.
The capital of Colombia is only 3 hours away from my district in Miami, Florida. The strong ties that have developed between our communities are symbolic of the enduring friendship that our Nation shares with Colombia. As Florida's seventh largest global trading partner, passage of the FTA has the potential to boost Florida's exports to Colombia by $161 million in just the first year. Also significant is the agreement's ability to support the creation of nearly 5,000 new jobs throughout the State within the first 3 years of its passage. The positive impact that this FTA could have for the prosperity and security of our two nations, and indeed the hemisphere as a whole, cannot be denied. Serving as the steadfast bulwark against radical, anti-American regimes throughout the region, Colombia has proven time and time again its commitment to respecting human rights and democracy.
Now it is time for us to step up, Mr. Speaker, and not only support Colombia's efforts but provide Americans here at home the opportunity to benefit from our trade relationship as well. We hope that this trade agreement will be before us as rapidly as possible.