The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 35

Among other things, we reported on the billion-dollar market
share U.S. agriculture was losing to countries that had free trade
agreements in place with Colombia. We monitored trade negotia-
tions between Colombia and major competitors including South
Korea, the European Union and China. We also documented trade
agreements as they entered into force. And we painted a picture of
Bogota’s aggressive trade agenda and the economic losses to U.S.
exporters if the trade agreement was not ratified.
Similar reports went in from South Korea and Panama, but each
of the three amigos had its own peculiarities. For Colombia, the
special twist was labor and the labor action plan, and what a twist
it was! We had some superb labor officers—that rare breed that
pingpongs between political and economic sections, depending on
the roundness of the ball and the size of the racket that hits it. Their
impartial reporting was critical to the cause, covering reactions
from the labor sector and events leading to the labor action plan.
Once the plan was in place, they reported on progress toward
meeting the plan’s targets and continued to report on labor sector
positions. These virtuosos had to convey accurate information to
change the old preconceptions about the labor sector in Colombia
and present an updated reality of the country to justify ratification
of the trade agreement.
There are far more details and stories about the three amigos,
and perhaps one day they will be written down. If you ever find
yourself, as a reporting officer, wondering whether the cable you
just drafted and put through the transformation of the clearance
process would affect policy, just remember the three amigos: the
South Korea, Colombia and Panama trade agreements.
Political and economic reporting
make a difference.
Ivan Rios is an economic and commercial affairs officer now serving
in Windhoek. He joined the Foreign Service in 2005 and has served in
Mexico City, Recife and Bogota. Prior to that, he held two limited non-
career appointments, in Mexico City and São Paulo.
Political Reporting: Then and Now—
and Looking Ahead
By Kathryn Hoffman and Samuel C. Downing
Consulate General São Paulo
The world has changed in the three decades since Mongolian
Airlines stewardesses in black fishnet stockings crossed my desk
in Washington via a cable from the field. That cable described a
bipolar world, stark and clear, where the gulf between what “we”
Embassy Bogota Deputy Chief of Mission Perry Holloway, center, during a ceremony celebrating the arrival of the first U.S. motorcycle,
a Harley Davidson, imported into Colombia under the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2012.
Courtesy Embassy Bogota
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