A fair and humane trade agreement cannot exist in a climate where:
- union leaders are continuously under threat
- indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and small-scale farmers are being stripped of their land
- extrajudicial killings are conducted with widespread impunity
The Colombia FTA will jeopardize human rights and worsen poverty in Colombia – the very things that proponents claim to want to alleviate. Here are some of the problems with this deal:
- Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for union members and organizers. According to the International Trade Unionist Confederation, there have been more than 2,200 labor assassinations since 1991. Between June and October 2010 alone, 33 human rights activists were killed.
- Unfortunately, the Colombian government does little to punish or prevent rampant crimes against organized labor and poor communities, creating a culture of impunity that the Colombia FTA would only encourage.
- Even without the FTA, Colombian labor law does not respect even minimum international labor standards, and the laws that are in place are not effectively enforced. The FTA would push Colombia to lower the minimum wage, and remove or reduce guarantees for overtime pay, collective bargaining, and worker’s compensation.
- The FTA expands the monopoly of U.S. drug companies, making access to life-saving drugs even more difficult in Colombia. According to the Pan-American Health Organization, the FTA would raise annual medicinal costs for Colombians by $900 million.
- So-called “intellectual property rights” provisions (more accurately described as monopoly protections) would also place patents on traditional medicinal knowledge and natural resources, threatening traditional medicinal practices.
- The FTA requires changes to the Colombian Constitution that would deny indigenous populations’ communal landholding status.
- Colombia has the highest number of displaced people in the world— outpacing even Sudan— because of forced displacements and land grabs, often with Colombian military involvement. The deal will accelerate displacement of impoverished Afro-Colombians and farmers and the stealing of their lands. And even the Colombian government says displacement due to the FTA will force campesinos into immigration or illegal drug trafficking.
- With the removal of previous protections from dumping by US agribusiness (which is subsidized to the tune of $24 billing per year) the Colombian agricultural sector is predicted to immediately lose 11% of its total income, with more loss likely over time.
- Colombia, which encompasses vast tracks of Amazon rainforest, contains tremendous biodiversity and natural resources that would be opened up to mining, timber, and palm oil plantations without sufficient environmental safeguards or protection of indigenous rights. In addition to local environmental damage this will exacerbate global warming, as the Amazon forest is destroyed.
(This information compiled in part by our member group Witness for Peace.)