Since the United States abandoned the protectionist policies that helped cause the Great Depression it has been the world leader in bringing free trade to the rest of the world. Since the end of World War II, free trade has lifted billions out of poverty and decreased hunger worldwide But now that leadership is threatened and so is global peace and prosperity along with it. Bloomberg reports:

After six decades of ever-expanding international commerce, the high tide of free trade is ebbing.

Most important is the U.S., the world’s largest economy and biggest importer. Democrats, who took control of Congress in 2007, have postponed a decision on a trade deal with Colombia by amending so-called fast-track authority, which guards against amendments and filibusters and requires a timely vote.

Their action “undermined the whole foundation of U.S. trade policy,” Bergsten said, adding that it creates a loss of confidence in the U.S. to lead the way on trade. Luis Guillermo Plata, Colombia’s trade minister, said April 11 that U.S. rejection of the accord would be tantamount to imposing “trade sanctions” on one of America’s staunchest allies.