Colombia “Action Plan” Not Good Enough

April 6, 2011

Colombia “Action Plan” Not Good Enough
Statement by Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director, Citizens Trade Campaign

On April 6, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced a new “Action Plan Related to Labor Rights” between the U.S. and Colombia in preparation for introduction of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement before Congress.  Citizens Trade Campaign, a national coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith and social justice organizations, released the following statement:

“Voters are smart enough to see through the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.  Passing a trade deal with the deadliest country in the world for trade unionists will only increase the race to the bottom.  The modest proposals in the new ‘Action Plan Related to Labor Rights’ aren’t going to change that dynamic.  Frankly, all this talk of how it will create a level playing field would be laughable if so many Colombian lives and American livelihoods weren’t at stake.

“Since the Colombia Free Trade Agreement was first signed by the Bush administration, the number of union leaders assassinated in Colombia has only increased.  It grew from 37 assassinations in 2007 to at least 51 in 2010, according to Colombia’s Escuela Nacional Sindical.  The number of trade unionists killed in Colombia in recent years exceeds that of the rest of the world combined.  Two more killings were reported just this week.

“According to Colombia’s own Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the proposed trade pact would cause a 35% decline in agricultural employment in conflict-ridden regions of the country, leaving the unemployed with little choice but ‘migration to cities or other countries (especially the United States), working in drug cultivation zones, or affiliating with illegal armed groups.’  This trade deal will only make the ongoing human rights catastrophe in Colombia worse.

“Americans are right to be horrified by the violence against working people in Colombia, and to be worried about their jobs if this trade pact moves forward.  Elected officials should take note, too.  Trade deals like those proposed with Colombia and Korea aren’t only clear job-killers — they’re politically toxic.  Many Members of Congress got into office pledging to oppose these exact trade agreements.  Voters remember politicians’ promises when it comes to issues as fundamental as jobs, the economy and human rights.  In certain circles, they’ll be talking about the Korea and Colombia trade votes for years to come.”