Madison, October 12, 2011
As the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia comes up for consideration in the U.S. Congress today, several basic points suggest this FTA should be rejected. They include the following:
1. The FTA as drafted will have a severe impact upon small-scale farmers in Colombia, as they will be unable to compete with U.S. food crops coming into Colombia duty-free, but subsidized in the U.S. Many will leave their lands and go to live in the big cities, adding to the 5 million internally displaced persons or go to the Amazon rain forest areas to plant coca. Many others will likely migrate to other countries; some undoubtedly will add to the numbers of undocumented aliens entering the U.S.
2. The Colombian government has failed to take steps necessary to provide effective protection to Colombian labor union members, who continue to be murdered at the highest rate of any country in the world. Nor have discriminatory practices against labor organization been discontinued in Colombia. The Colombian government has promised reforms, but has yet to follow through to implement these reforms.
3. The general level of violence in Colombia is so substantial at this time that the U.S. government should not enter into the FTA with the Colombian government, which has shown itself unable or unwilling to control paramilitary violence and collaboration of Colombian Armed Forces with the illegal paramilitary forces. Six Catholic priests have already been murdered this year in Colombia and threats to human rights workers continue unabated. The U.S. government should not “reward” a government which does not protect those who work for peace and justice.
4. The FTA with Colombia will not likely significantly increase employment in the United States. It may open some markets to U.S.-based manufacturers, but those companies are most likely to manufacture their products abroad, in very low-wage countries. And, given the general level of violence and displacement in Colombia, it is doubtful Colombian workers will see an increase in these U.S. companies’ offshore jobs.
JOHN I. LAUN
President of CSN