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BYLINE: BY ALAN M. FIELD
Remember the Free Trade Area of the Americas? That pan-hemispheric free-trade agreement, dreamed up in 1994, now seems like an ancient fantasy. Although the U.S. concluded bilateral pacts with Chile in 2004, and with Colombia and Peru last year, free trade is under attack in the Western Hemisphere, and the Bush administration has only its agreements with Chile and Peru to show for its efforts in South America.
Venezuela, originally seen as a key partner in the FTAA, remains the most stubborn symbol of opposition to globalization and U.S. business. President Hugo Chavez has become a hero of governments from North Korea to Cuba to Iran. The leaders of Bolivia and Ecuador, two key Andean nations, have resisted U.S. calls for free-trade pacts. Even the agreement with Colombia, a strategic ally that supported the war in Iraq, remains in jeopardy because of opposition to the deal from U.S. labor unions.
Where does this leave U.S. trade? Oddly enough, U.S. trade with South America is thriving, despite such challenges. Bilateral U.S. trade with Latin America …