Since liberals took over Congress, they’ve chosen to abandon the pro-free trade policies of President Bill Clinton in the ’90s and embrace a neo-protectionism that is costing the U.S. economy millions and undercutting our reputation as a reliable ally in South America. Heritage scholars James Roberts and Ray Walser lay out just some of the costs:

A race is on for influence and, ultimately, for power in the Western Hemisphere. Strangers from the Eastern Hemisphere, from China to Russia, from Europe to Iran, are interested in trade and secure supplies of resources, minerals, and energy. These less constrained outsiders with little oversight arrive daily in places like Bogota and Panama City with new offers for trade and investment. While we elect to sit on the sidelines, others move to cut deals and cut us out.

Substantial stakes are on the table in Colombia. The U.S. government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars since 1999 in, and has achieved significant progress through, Plan Colombia in addition to spending four years negotiating the free trade agreement with Colombia. All of this is now placed in jeopardy by Congress’s decision this week to alter established rules and break faith with the Colombians. In the 500-plus days since the U.S. and Colombian governments signed the trade agreement in August 2006, U.S. businesses and workers have already lost the opportunity to export more than $1 billion worth of American-made products and services duty-free to Colombia while Congress has dithered and played politics with trade.