An Open Letter to the Senators and Representatives of the United States of America about the Free Trade Agreement
( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN translator)
Jorge Enrique Robledo,
Colombian Senator / Polo Democratico Alternativo PDA
November 13, 2006
A Cordial Greeting:
There is not a single organization that represents workers, peasants, native peoples, students, intellectuals and other sectors of the common people of Colombia that supports the FTA with the United States. Even the majority of organizations of agricultural business people opposed the treaty until February 27, 2006, the day when the signature was affixed. But we do not reject the FTA because we are opposed in principle to international business or to relations with the United States. We are opposed because it sacrifices the sovereignty of Colombia, it annexes the Colombian economy to that of th United States, and it takes away from our country the main instruments of development, which will increase the poverty of almost all Colombians.
The FTA makes irreversible the neo-liberal reforms of the last fifteen years, reforms that have caused great damage to industry and agriculture, replaced public monopolies with private ones, and generated the worst social disaster of the twentieth century. The backward motion in employment and poverty has been so great that we have not yet returned to the levels of before the crisis, and the country is suffering one of the worst levels of social inequality in the world.
The official studies indicate that with the FTA imports to Colombia will grow twice as fast as those of the United States and that Colombian exporters will lose sales to the Andean countries compared to the Americans. This is because Colombia will eliminate its tariffs and the United States, in addition to enjoying an economy that is 129 times greater, will maintain its immense subsidies. Furthermore, Colombia virtually eliminated health obstacles got American products, while the White House maintained all of theirs against Colombian goods. Because of what has been imposed in the area of intellectual property, Colombia gives up on the production of complex industrial goods and on progress in science and technology. This chapter, furthermore, will cause disease and death among the Colombians, as it will raise the price of medicines by about 900 million dollars per year, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS). And the agreements in telecommunications and arbitration tribunals will have a negative effect on the interests of the official firms that belong to the Colombian State.
The rules about public investments and purchases grant unheard-of advantages to the American monopolists in Colombia, and it is a joke to say that the Colombians in the United States will enjoy the same advantages. It is especially serious that that the Agreement takes away Colombia¹s right to have an effective balance of payments clause, a mechanism that the IMF itself has authorized, an whose disappearance might signify catastrophic losses for the country. And, the FTA also consolidates the delivery of the financial system to foreigners, and imposes unpayable costs on Colombia in order to define exchange and interest rates.
The supporters of the FTA say that American investments will wipe out the damage that the Agreement will create to the capacity of the Colombians to generate internal savings. But they are silent about the fact that it will be necessary to attract those investments by creating worse labor and environmental conditions, changes that the FTA authorizes explicitly (Articles 17.2 and 18.2). And it is known that various reforms are coming in Colombia that will lower the price of the work force, that in this country it is easier to create and maintain an illegal armed organization than a union, and that there is an ideological campaign underway to lower the minimum wage, just as it is known that the current government is so unconcerned about the environment that it was capable of fumigating the national natural park La Macarena with powerful poisons.
It is also a factor in our rejection of the FTA that the destruction of agriculture obliges more Colombians to cultivate coca and poppies, and that "free trade¹ enriches the monopolists of the United States, while it deteriorates the economic conditions of the people.
Those of us in the Congresses of Colombia and the United States who treasure an authentically democratic conception must fight for better relations between the two countries. But I tell you frankly that the imperial logic that animates the FTA is opposed to that. It is, therefore, one of our duties to reject that Agreement,
Jorge Enrique Robledo
Senator of the Republic of Colombia
Member of The Democratic Alternative Pole party
Bogotá, November 13, 2006