Tag Archives: Panama

Panama seizes shipment of missile guidance equipment from Cuba bound for North Korea

RSN-75 Radar for SA-2 SAM
RSN-75 Radar for SA-2 SAM

From Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

Cuba, long derided in international policy circles as a basket case and no threat to the U.S., has been caught smuggling weapons of war to North Korea in blatant violation of U.N. sanctions. This is a wake-up call.

Sharp-eyed Panamanian authorities, watching the North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang since June, received intelligence it might be shipping illegal drugs, something it had been caught doing before.

As the vessel lumbered into the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal from Cuba, Panamanian authorities cornered the 450-foot rust-bucket, battled a maniacally violent crew who slashed ship lines to make it hard to unload the ship, and then watched as the ship’s captain tried to kill himself before having a heart attack.

After subduing the crew, the Panamanians found no drugs buried beneath sloppily packed brown sugar, but did find defensive RSN-75 “Fan Song” fire-control radar equipment for SA-2 surface-to-air missiles.

The discovery, and the crew’s behavior, were signs of something big the North Koreans didn’t want known — weapons smuggling, a violation of both United Nations sanctions prohibiting all sales of weapons to North Korea and Panama’s own laws governing the canal.

“You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal,” declared Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, a U.S. ally, who tweeted a photo of the illegal shipment for the world to see.

It’s significant that the enabler of this violation of international law was none other than Cuba, which has worked hard to convince the Obama administration to drop all travel and trade sanctions against it — and which is currently negotiating a migration pact with the U.S. It’s time to stop that right now, and sanction Cuba further.

The brazen shipment of Russian-made weapons through Panama signaled that little has changed in Cuba — a state sponsor of global terror that has in fact been trying to destroy the U.S. since 1962.

“This is a serious and alarming incident that reminds us that the North Korean regime continues to pursue its nuclear and ballistic programs, and will stop at nothing in that pursuit,” said House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “It also illustrates that the Castro tyranny continues to aid and abet America’s enemies and continues to pose a national security threat to the United States so long as the Castro apparatchik holds control over the island.”

It’s also the work of a rogue state. And at just 90 miles away, one that is as chillingly close to our shores as it is warm and friendly to North Korea.

[…]Although it’s unknown why North Korea, a major weapons exporter, is importing weapons from Cuba right now, defense analysts speculate that the weapons may be making their way back to Pyongyang for an upgrade and return to Cuba.

That would be worrisome given that North Korea has said it means to strike the U.S. on its own home turf. What better launching pad could it ask for than Cuba?

Two weeks ago, North Korea’s military commander visited Cuba to a red-carpet welcome. The visit raises questions as to what the two discussed — and, given the threat we see now, whether U.S. intelligence was aware of it.

If there is one thing that the United States definitely should not do, it’s dropping sanctions against Cuba.

FARC terrorist leader Alfonso Cano killed by Colombian armed forces

Map of South America
Map of South America

From the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpt:

The armed forces of Colombia have scored a major battlefield victory. They finally hunted down, confronted, and killed the leader of the narco-terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Guillermo Leon Saenz, widely known by his alias Alfonso Cano.

A guerrilla for decades, Cano assumed the top leadership of the FARC following the natural death of founder Manuel Marulanda (2008) and the elimination of senior figures Raul Reyes (2008) and Jorge Briceno (aka Mono Jojoy, 2010).

Seen by some as a modern-day version of the “good revolutionary,” Cano—a life-long advocate of armed violence and terrorism—fell in combat with the Colombian armed forces as they rappelled their way into his secret jungle hideout. Cano was also indicted in a U.S. court for drug trafficking along with dozens of other FARC leaders and had a $5 million price on his head.

FARC is a Marxist terrorist group.

The Economist reports that the Colombian economy is also doing well.

Excerpt:

WHEN the figures are finally tallied, Colombia may prove to have weathered the world recession better than any other of the larger Latin American countries. After a slight contraction at the end of 2008, the economy has been growing modestly this year. This resilience stems from continued foreign investment, an increase in government spending on public works and easier money: since December the central bank has cut interest rates by six percentage points, to 4%, a steeper drop than anywhere in the region outside Chile.

[…]President Álvaro Uribe’s security policies have helped to restore confidence. Investment soared, from 15% of GDP in 2002 to 26% last year, says Mr Zuluaga. Private business has retooled. After many delays, the government has issued licences to expand several ports; this month it hopes to award a contract for the first of four big road schemes, costing a total of $7.5 billion over four years. It hopes for investment of up to $50 billion in mining and oil over the next decade.

And liberal MSNBC has more on the booming Colombian economy.

Excerpt:

…Colombia’s revival is benefiting U.S. economic and political rivals as much as or more than the U.S. itself.

The long delay in signing the treaty allowed Latin America’s fourth-largest economy to strengthen ties with China. It also damaged U.S. credibility in the region, says Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Council of the Americas in Washington. “The delay in passing this called into question the United States’ reliability as a partner,” Farnsworth says. “There’s a strategic component to this. It’s not just about economics and trade.”

[…]As talks between the U.S. and Colombia dragged on, Colombia and China forged plans for a rail link between the Pacific and Caribbean that could draw freight away from the Panama Canal. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos aims for a trade deal with South Korea. To tighten his connections to high-growth Asia, he’s also seeking membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group. “While Washington was debating whether the accord with Colombia was opportune, we advanced in our foreign policy strategy,” says Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados.

Santos has cooperated more with his South American neighbors, organizing a meeting of finance ministers to discuss ways to protect their currencies and economies from the debt crisis in the U.S. and Europe. He supports a stock trading platform with Colombia, Chile, and Peru and wants to bring Mexico and Panama on board. Exports to Brazil have surged tenfold. While the U.S. remains Colombia’s biggest export market, with $16.8 billion in 2010 sales, up 30 percent from a year earlier, sales to China more than doubled last year, to $1.2 billion. Sales to the European Union are also rising, to $5.4 billion this year through August, more than in all of 2010. An EU trade accord could come next year.

The government has reduced cocaine cultivation 37 percent and halved the number of insurgents to about 8,000. Improved security has spurred enough growth to win an investment-grade credit rating from Standard & Poor’s as well as investment from billionaires. Colombia’s victories over the guerrillas opened up swathes of countryside to exploration for oil, gold, and coal. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s push into crude has helped fuel foreign investment that the government says may reach a record $12 billion this year. The economy grew 5.2 percent in the second quarter.

The U.S. faces more competition from Colombia’s neighbors and Canada. In 2010, U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia fell more than 50 percent from 2008, to $827 million, as Argentina’s more than doubled, to $1 billion, according to a report by Senator Richard Lugar’s staff. Diaz-Granados attributes the U.S. setback to the delay in the free-trade agreement.

An August accord reduces or ends Colombian tariffs on Canadian wheat, paper, and machinery. Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s third-largest lender, agreed in October to buy 51 percent of Banco Colpatria Red Multibanca Colpatria for about $1 billion—Scotiabank’s largest international takeover. “This is not the Colombia of old,” says Brian J. Porter, group head of international banking for Scotiabank. “The more we looked at Colombia, the more excited we got about the economic potential.”

We really should have signed that trade deal 3 years ago – it would have helped out economy a lot.  But unions got Obama elected, and the unions decided that the trade deal needed to be held up for 3 years. And that’s one of the reasons why we’ve had over 9% unemployment. Our economic policy is being set by unions, not by economists. But in Colombia, economic policy is set by economists, not unions.

House passes free trade deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama

From Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

The biggest free-trade pacts since NAFTA were passed by the House Wednesday night, with the Senate likely to follow. As a result, America will reap 250,000 jobs and $13 billion in exports. Where are the celebrations?

The strangest aspect of the passage of free trade treaties with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, with final votes taken after five long years, is the disconnect between the big economic gains expected for the U.S., and the reticence of congressional Democrats and the White House, both of which finally got something right on the economy.

As we went to press, the pacts had been passed by the House, with the Senate expected to vote soon. With bipartisanship like that, lawmakers should be cheering loudly for a true “jobs bill” that costs nothing.

Yet as a Democratic aide told Roll Call on Wednesday, “Republicans don’t want to give the president a victory, Democrats are split and everyone is distracted.”

Excuse us, but this is some of the best economic news in three years. It deserves a victory dance.

It’s a fact these treaties will bring new orders for factories, save family farms, strengthen strategic alliances with countries well worth having as allies, and open up breathtaking new opportunities in fast-growing markets. It needs to be acknowledged.

[…]President Obama paid lip service to the treaties, but wasted nearly three years attaching protectionist amendments and dithering. It harmed the economy and never changed this fact: Free trade had to pass if there was to be a real recovery.

Economist Greg Mankiw of Harvard University lists free trade as the #2 top item that economists of all ideological stripes agree on. This is a no-brainer.

Passing the free trade deals is important because it would make up for other anti-business policies of the Obama administration.

Excerpt:

Obama appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have not only blocked Boeing from making planes in South Carolina, but they have greased the speed of union elections, made decertification votes impossible, changed the requirement that a majority of workers vote for a union, and required almost every workplace in America to put posters up advising workers of their unionization rights.

The Obama Administration claims to want to double exports and support free trade, but it took it nearly three years to send the pending trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea to Congress. Which means that in all this time American companies have been paying higher tariffs for exports.

The Obama Administration has proposed 219 new rules affecting industries, each of which will cost at least $100 million to comply. While the Washington legal business is growing, every industry and business is affected, scared, and confused by the massive new proposals. Small businesses are especially overwhelmed and must hire lawyers to understand and comply with the massive amount of new regulation.

The Obama crown-jewel “achievements” of the new health care and Dodd-Frank financial laws adversely affect almost every American business, totaled almost 3,000 pages of statutory language, and will result in huge costs on employers.

Let’s hope the Senate passes these deals and Obama signs it. We need lower priced goods in a recession, and we need more markets to sell into. If this passes, it will be the first pro-growth action taken by the administration in three years.

GOP plan would create 1.2 million new jobs by expanding energy production

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (H/T Reuben, indirectly)

Excerpt:

Americans are angry and with good reason. They are hurting from unemployment, uncertainty in stock market investments and declining retirement funds. And they are weary of waiting for a real workable plan to get us out of this rut.

This is not a time to try the same failed policies of borrowing, debt and calls for tax increases. So we offer these ideas as President Barack Obama prepares to address Congress Thursday if he really wants to make some major bipartisan moves to get our country moving again.

[…]First, allow U.S. employers to repatriate $1 trillion sitting in overseas banks. The current tax rate of 35 percent is a huge barrier blocking those dollars from being invested in jobs, boosting the stock market and raising the value of retirement funds.

Some companies use armies of attorneys and accountants to find ways to cut those taxes, followed by the Internal Revenue Service tracking them down. Stop the nonsense. Offer a lower tax rate, perhaps 15 percent, for a limited time (maybe even a lower rate if the money is invested in job creation or in purchasing U.S. goods).

[…]Second, freeze the massive number of proposed regulations until Congress can review and approve them. Regulations cost U.S. employers more than $1.75 trillion per year. Federal agencies are moving forward with more than 4,257 new regulations that will add tens of billions in regulatory costs — more than tripling the burden of agency mandates from 2009.Employers are worried how this tsunami of new regulations will overwhelm their businesses so they are holding back on growth and hiring. Unless a regulation is absolutely necessary to protect the public’s health and safety, it should be stopped now. Enactment of House Resolution 10, the REINS Act, would require congressional review and approval for any mandate costing the economy more than $100 million annually.

Third, pass our bipartisan Infrastructure Jobs and Energy Independence Act (H.R. 1861), to expand safe offshore oil and gas exploration, create 1.2 million new jobs annually and launch $8 trillion in economic output. Our bipartisan bill dedicates a portion of up to $3.7 trillion in federal oil and gas revenues from the new exploration for investments in new energy technologies, power generation and grid modernization to help put us on a path to energy independence.

[…]Finally, to preserve a free global market for trade, we must hold foreign nations accountable to abide by international agreements. This year, America will lose its position as the global manufacturing leader to China, in large part because Beijing illegally gives its exports a 20 percent to 40 percent discount by manipulating and devaluing its currency.

Another good idea would be to sign the free trade deals with Panama, South Korea and Colombia. Heritage explains what would happen if we did.

Excerpt:

The Obama Administration—after allowing U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama to languish unapproved for nearly four years—lately appears eager to push Congress to ratify all three soon. The problem now is that some in Congress are trying to make their approval contingent upon an extension of the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA).

That would be a mistake. The three FTAs are intrinsically worth passing without any strings. Congress should act on them without further delay.

The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) would be America’s largest free trade agreement in Asia. It would increase U.S. exports by an estimated $10 billion annually, increase U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by $11 billion, and add 70,000 U.S. jobs—all without a dime in federal government spending.[1] The accord would also serve as a powerful statement of the U.S. commitment to East Asia at a time when many perceive declining American interest, presence, and influence in the region. The FTA would strengthen U.S. commercial ties and expand the bilateral relationship with South Korea beyond traditional military ties or the North Korean threat.

[…]Rejecting KORUS would disadvantage U.S. companies by locking in discriminatory trade barriers. During the four years the agreement was held hostage by special interest groups and congressional protectionists, the U.S. lost $40 billion in potential exports. American companies continued to lose market share to foreign competitors. The U.S. used to be South Korea’s largest trade partner, but in less than a decade it has been displaced by China, the European Union, and Japan. As Korea’s market opens further, it will be foreign competitors and not U.S. companies that will benefit.

[…]Until this year, the Obama Administration and congressional leadership took its orders on the U.S.–Colombia FTA from protectionist U.S. labor unions and U.S. anti-globalization groups, joined by far-left allies in the region, who succeeded in delaying congressional approval of the FTA. The cost of delay has been significant. So far, according to the Latin America Trade Coalition’s “Colombia Tariff Ticker,”[2] U.S. companies have paid $3.5 billion (as of this writing) in unnecessary duties to the Colombian treasury in the more than 1,600 days since the FTA was signed.

That $3.5 billion has translated into higher prices in Colombia for U.S. goods and services, which are now at a competitive disadvantage in the Colombian market. It has also meant reduced profits for U.S. companies and lost jobs at home.

There are plenty of good ideas from people who live in the real world where real economic laws apply. Keynesianism has been tried since Pelosi and Reid were elected in 2007. It has failed. We need to move on to what works.

Obama’s naive trade policy angers Canada, China, France, Mexico, etc.

The economic effects of massive government waste and naive protectionism
The economic effects of massive government waste and naive protectionism

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

The Wall Street Journal explains the high costs of economic ignorance.

Excerpt:

The smell of trade war is suddenly in the air. Mr. Obama slapped a 35% tariff on Chinese tires Friday night, and China responded on the weekend by threatening to retaliate against U.S. chickens and auto parts. That followed French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s demand on Thursday that Europe impose a carbon tariff on imports from countries that don’t follow its cap-and-trade diktats. “We need to impose a carbon tax at [Europe’s] border. I will lead that battle,” he said.

Mr. Sarkozy was following U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who has endorsed a carbon tax on imports, and the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed a carbon tariff as part of its cap-and-tax bill. This in turn followed the “Buy American” provisions of the stimulus, which has incensed much of Canada; Congress’s bill to ban Mexican trucks from U.S. roads in direct violation of Nafta, prompting Mexico to retaliate against U.S. farm and kitchen goods; and the must-make-cars-in-America provisions of the auto bailouts. Meanwhile, U.S. trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea languish in Congress.

The article goes on to explain how the Smoot-Hawley tariff helped cause the Great Depression. This is exactly the path that President Teleprompter is treading. He is taking us head-first into the next Great Depression because he knows less about economic policy than my keyboard. He did legal work for ACORN, for God’s sake – have you seen who ACORN hires? I’m sure that woman can read a Teleprompter, too.

What do economists think of Obama’s economic policies?

I noticed this post on Greg Mankiw’s blog, where links to a survey of economists.

Click here to read the results of a new survey of AEA members. This updates previous survey results, summarized in Chapter 2 of my favorite textbook.

Note that 83 percent agree that “the United States should eliminate remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade.” I presume that would apply to tariffs on Chinese tires.

Greg Mankiw is a Harvard University professor of economics.

UPDATE: New Michele Bachmann video!

Wow, is she ever pretty when she’s explaining free trade! Sigh.