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Mr. RIVERA. The Colombia free trade agreement represents a critical juncture in our trade relations. It does so because it's about economic security, but it's also about national security.
It's about economic security because the Colombia free trade agreement means jobs--thousands of jobs for America. In my community and for our national economy in particular, international commerce is important to creating those jobs. It's also about national security because the Colombia free trade agreement will send a message to our allies, and just as importantly, it will send a message to our enemies. All of Latin America and, indeed, the world will be watching to see if we are going to stand up with our allies--those who are fighting for democracy and who are fighting against narcoterror.
Vote ``yes'' on this trade agreement, and stand up for our best ally in Latin America, Colombia. Vote ``yes'' on this agreement, and stand up for jobs in America.
Madam Speaker, we have come to a crucial point in the free trade debate.
The world is watching.
Our best friends and allies in Latin America are watching.
Madam Speaker, our enemies are watching.
The choice that is presented to us with these trade agreements could not be any clearer. Are we going to stand with our allies? Or are we going to continue turning our back to them? The choice is an easy one to make, and the stakes could not be any higher.
Madam Speaker, just as American ingenuity has made our nation the model for developed economies for decades, in an ever more globalized economy, free trade is integral to promoting economic growth, to creating American jobs, and to raising the standard of living in the United States and abroad. At the same time, Colombia is our best and strongest ally in Latin America and the oldest functioning democracy in the region. The Colombian people have a passion to be free and full partners in the global economy and have shown great enthusiasm about trading with the United States. As someone who represents the largest Colombian-American community in the country, I know this first hand.
I have seen what the Colombian people have been through over the past two decades and the improvements that have been made in that country.
Madam Speaker, Colombia has become a model for success in the region.
Colombia is a nation that looks to the United States as its role model and has worked to emulate us in its own legislative, judicial, and social structures. What's more, today Colombia is a nation of people determined to crush the drug trade and break free from the bonds of their difficult past to reclaim their homeland.
American aid to Colombia has made it possible for Colombia to upgrade its social infrastructure and improve its schools, health care, and labor laws. There is no more important task before us right now that will help the Colombian people achieve further advancement, than to quickly pass the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
So, Madam Speaker, what does passage of these free trade agreements show to the world?
It shows that we will stand by our allies.
It shows what the United States values. It shows that we value human rights. It shows that we value democracy. It shows that we value liberty.
Colombia has achieved, and continues to achieve, all of those things. Colombia's democracy has withstood terrorism. It has withstood civil war. And Colombia is a pillar of freedom in the region. The more trade and economic benefits the Colombian people receive, the less difficult it becomes for the Colombian government to destroy terrorism and put an end to the illicit drug trade in their country.
Madam Speaker, the bottom line is that trade, and this agreement, will create opportunity in Colombia as well as in the United States. This agreement will mean better, high quality jobs for Colombian citizens. It will mean better, high quality jobs for our own citizens; a much-needed boost in this struggling economy.
Madam Speaker, let's send a message to our enemies. Let's send a message to our best friends and allies in Latin America. Let's send a message to the world.
Let's send the message that America rewards its allies. Let's send the message that America wants to do business with another country that values freedom and democracy. And let's send a message that America will not let political gamesmanship continue to get in the way of improving our nation's economy.
In the 112th Congress, both Democrats and Republicans are united and ready to approve the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Madam Speaker, it's time to pass the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
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