( Translated by Stacey Schlau, a volunteer CSN translator)
Senator Robledo demands that the matter of the TLC should be suspended until such time as the government and Congress of the United States make known what changes will be made to the text
Speech by Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, spokesperson for the PDA, plenary session of the Senate, May 10, 2007
The warning that we the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA), the Liberal Party, the MIRA, and the indigenous people gave, that the TLC would not be approved in the United States in the form agreed upon by the two governments last November 22, today has been confirmed. It is already clear that there will be modifications, and as far as is known, they will not be by means of adding a supplementary letter, but by changing the text itself, at least in the articles on the environment, labor, and medicine. It is still not known whether the agreement that Democrats and Republicans appear to have arrived at was approved by President Bush. Neither do we know if it was with the support of the unions. There is only the clear certainty that there will be changes and that they will be profound ones.
It also appears to be a fact that, even when the trade part of the Treaty is agreed upon, to clear a path for the agreements with Peru, Colombia, and Panamá, Colombia’s will continue to be on hold depending on questions of violence, human rights, and guarantees to union constituencies that go beyond whatever norms are established in the TLC. Then it could happen that a TLC would go into effect for Peru and Panamá, and not for Colombia, at least in the short term.
What does this mean? Nothing less than breaking the agreement to which both governments subscribed on November 22, when they decided that the text would not be modified. It is also a betrayal of the fast-track mechanism established by the United States and accepted by the Colombian government. I think it is very serious that the national government would see both facts as unimportant. A commitment agreed to by both governments is being broken and President Uribe Vélez says nothing.
I am inclined to think that these will be changes made to favor the United States. I very much doubt that the Democratic Party will want to introduce new clauses that would harm the interests of the United States. But the changes, even supposing that they were positive for Colombia, would not fix the TLC. The Treaty has 23 articles and we are speaking about modifications in only three of them. For example, regarding intellectual property, the damages will not only affect medicines but also many other issues. Nor will the territorial reduction by any means be fixed. The agricultural and fishing losses would be maintained, unchanged. The chapter on investments and the one on buying would continue generating disastrous effects for Colombia. So no one can be under the illusion that the nature of the Treaty will be changed because a few clauses might be modified.
I want to call attention to the changes in articles 17 and 18, pertaining to environmental and labor issues. Articles 17.2 and 18.2, which are identical, authorize Colombia to approve any environmental or labor damage that it deems necessary to win business in the United States. If both articles are modified, it might be considered positive, because there would be less environmental and labor damage. But the million-dollar question is, and here I call attention to Uribe’s politics, how does Colombia become competitive? How does Colombia export if it does not lower working and environmental standards, as the Central American and all other countries who have signed Free Trade Agreements with the United States have done? Therefore, what we are talking about here is that these changes could be exactly the quadrature of the circle.
When the text of the TLC was being discussed with the Secondary Commissions, indigenous groups, MIRA, Liberal Party, and Democratic Pole, we told Minister Plata that this was a spurious debate, because we knew that the text would not be dealt with in the same way in the United States. Minister Plata responded that he did not know if the text would be modified or not in Washington. I answered the Minister: “Careful, Dr. Plata, because if it happens that the text changes from day to night, there are only two possibilities. Either you are the only Colombian who did not know, and so you acted inappropriately, not knowing what was going on with issues related to your department, or you did indeed know what was going to happen and tried to deceive us.” It is up to Dr. Plata to decide now in which of the two situations he found himself.
It would be the last straw if the government insisted on continuing to discuss next week the text of the TLC in the full Senate. Because it is absolutely clear that this will not be the definitive text. I therefore demand of the national government that it desist from this spurious negotiation, respect the Colombian Congress, and not deceive the Colombian people, and that it suspend negotiations about the Treaty until such time as it is known what the changes will be, and if the government will accept them as if they were nothing, without even studying them or permitting the Colombian people to evaluate them.
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