Resistance Grows to Flawed Colombia FTA

The top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee says he will not endorse the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) until key provisions dealing with labor rights are included in the legislation.

Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) says he opposes the FTA because Republicans have insisted that the bill make no reference to a U.S.-Colombia action plan for improving Colombia labor rights. The White House has agreed to that demand.

“Republican refusal to include in the implementing bill a reference to the document addressing the core issue which had prevented consideration of the FTA – the Action Plan on Labor Rights – and the administration’s acquiescence to that refusal are totally unacceptable,” said Levin at a briefing on Capitol Hill. “As such, it is not satisfactory, and I will actively oppose it.”

Colombia remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist. Over the past 25 years, 2,850 trade unionists have been murdered there. In 2010, 51 trade unionists were killed in Colombia, an increase over 2009. And just earlier this year, two more unionists were murdered. To date, the Colombia government has done very little to pursue the deaths of these labor activists.

evin says inclusion of the action plan sends a powerful message to Colombia that the U.S. is serious about its commitments to fighting for labor reforms, providing concrete actions on violence and impunity and ensuring U.S. workers do not compete against workers whose rights are violated.

“Worker rights and the action plan deserve to be elevated, not relegated,” said Levin. “They deserve to be focused on, and not shunted aside. The implementing bill is the only vote that a member casts on a trade agreement and refusal to refer to the action plan on workers rights is a fatal flaw.”