Colombian Pact Endangers Lives
Months after being ratified by Congress, the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is still waiting to be put into effect. Colombia has still not met conditions regarding unionist protection and strengthening labor laws. This lag is legitimizing many of the problems put forth by the pact’s opponents, and it indicates what many experts believed all along: it was a big mistake.
Opponents of free trade in general obviously had no problem finding fault with the bill. Colombia is yet another country with lowered labor regulations that could threaten the well-being of the U.S. economy. Just like with Mexico and NAFTA, American companies will face unrestricted competition from foreign industries that can produce cheaper goods for a cheaper price.
But what is particularly concerning about Colombia is the dangerous conditions that exist for trade unionists and laborers. According to Colombian unions, the government’s failure to control violence within its workforce resulted in 51 deaths in 2011. These conditions are not exactly ideal for a trade partner.
To encourage President Obama to push the FTA through for ratification, the Colombian government introduced a Labor Action Plan. The plan was designed to address the dangerous labor conditions and establish a safe environment from violence and murder. Colombia soon reported that all requirements had been met, and protection had successfully been provided for unionists and traders.
Yet the murders continue, and U.S. business and economic experts believe the nation still has a long way to go. Although they do believe that Colombia is headed in the right direction, there is really no evidence yet as to how long it will be before the killings stop. One Colombian senator even stated that their government is more likely to hide what is going on than it is to speak the truth and fulfill the action plan.
Colombia has long been one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist. Is this type of country really the best candidate as a trade partner? The barbaric acts going on in Colombia were a red flag for many, but the current administration’s affinity for free trade proved enough to ratify the bill anyway. Now, not only has the sovereignty of Americans been threatened, but the safety, as well. If American lawmakers were wise, they would see these warning signs for what they truly are: perfect motivation to back out of this dangerous trade agreement before tragedy ensues.