Monday, April 07, 2008

Rep. Betty Sutton Statement on Columbian Free Trade Agreement

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Betty Sutton issued the following statement on the decision by the Bush Administration to force action on the “so-called” U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA):

“I strongly oppose the U.S.-Colombia FTA and will fight this harmful deal. Not only is it a continuation of bad trade policy, but it ignores the gruesome human rights and labor rights violations which have plagued Colombia .

Today, Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for union and labor organizers, who are simply fighting to improve the lives of working families and communities in the country. Since President Uribe came to office in 2000, over 400 trade unionists have been killed. In 2007 alone, 72 union members were assassinated.

It makes no sense to push an FTA with a country that seems to ignore the continued blatant violations of basic human rights. How can a trade agreement be beneficial when the workers in one of the countries involved lack basic labor rights and are punished and often killed for their involvement in union activities? We should not even be considering a trade agreement with Colombia until this horrific violence ends and those responsible for the murder of thousands are brought to justice.

Aside from the unspeakable violence that rages on in Colombia , the fact remains that this deal is just another reincarnation of the same broken trade policies. The communities in Ohio that I represent are full of hardworking people with the sole expectation that their government will work with them, not against them. Our trade policies have a direct impact on American workers, and unfortunately, they have not treated American workers, businesses and communities kindly or fairly.

The U.S.-Colombia FTA lacks strong or enforceable labor and environmental provisions, important food and product safety standards and many other important provisions that would make it an agreement that would benefit my constituents and one that I could therefore support.

The key issue is why we are focusing on this FTA instead of fixing the problems with our current trade policies that accept foreign governments’ use of unfair tactics, such as currency manipulation, to provide themselves and their companies a significant advantage over businesses and workers in the United States .

By this action, the Bush Administration continues to show how out of touch they are with the realities facing working families and communities across this country. I will fight against the U.S.-Colombia FTA and for a trade model that will finally work for our people rather than against them.”

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