Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Koreans are Coming!

A South Korean woman practices coffee making in a Bogotá cafe. She plans to serve Colombian coffee in Seoul.
Of course, the South Koreans have been here for a while, as the myriad Korean-made products, including cellphones, computers and cars, show.

A South Korean-made car on a Bogotá street.
But, with the impending approval of a Colombia-Korea Free Trade Agreement, expect a real Korean invasion.

Sure, this'll mean cheaper computers for Colombian students. But it'll also mean a tidal wave of cheap and dirty Korean cars. Think that the traffic jams are bad now? Just wait.

More fundamentally, eliminating trade barriers with South Korea could trap Colombia deeper in its raw materials-based economy. Today, Colombia sells Korea coffee and minerals and buys back cars, phones and computers. That's a bad deal for Colombia, since mining creates few jobs, feeds corruption and damages biodiversity.

Imported from Asia? A Bogotá traffic jam.
 Some people believe that Colombia simply cannot compete with Asian manufacturers. But why shouldn't it? After all, Colombia's got plentiful raw materials, low-wage labor and millions of buyers at home and nearby. But opening the floodgates to cheap Asian products will make that belief a self-fulfilling conclusion.

Colombian auto assembly plant workers have protested the Colombia-Korea FTA. Rightly, they believe that their jobs will be exported across the Pacific Ocean. With them will go a piece of Colombia's small and fragile middle class.

Developing manufacturing isn't just a nice idea - it's also necessary. After all, resource extraction's not only unhealthy for Colombia's economy and its environment - it's also doomed. After all, that gold, coal and oil will run out eventually, and Colombia will be fortunate if they do so while Colombia still has some biodiversity left. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

I couldn't agree with you more!!!!!


Stuart Oswald said...

South Korea is a great example of a capitalist economy. If only Colombia could get itself into gear too.

mauricio forero l said...

Chile is almost there, so, yes why not Colombia Stuart. I hope that my country gets into gear to.

Stuart Oswald said...

How do you mean Chile?

mauricio forero l said...

Stuart, Chile's economy is one of the strongest in south america and, also the country with the narrowest gap between the rich and the poor in the continent, it has one of the lowest levels of illiteracy and corruption. The World Bank, The United Nations and other organizations believe that by the years 2020 or 2022 it will become the firs develop nation in South america. As it is now, Chile has a standard of life that exceeds the standards of many countries in Europe.

Stuart Oswald said...

Well that's good. But what does it have to do with my comment on this subject? That's what I asked.

Stuart Oswald said...

Do you mean Chile has no cars? Have they discovered fire yet? From past debates with you, something seen as good by yourself doesn't necessarily mean it really is progress or good.