Colombia Vive statement in opposition to the FTA
1) Just as the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico, the Central American Free Trade Agreement in Central America, and the Caribbean Basin Partnership Act in Haiti, the proposed Free Trade Agreement with Colombia will severely damage the agricultural sector in that country. If enacted, the agreement will further cripple the ability of small farmers in Colombia to compete with heavily subsidized farm products from the United States, such as corn, rice, beans and potatoes, traditionally produced by Colombians in their own country. It will exacerbate an already untenable situation in which peasants rendered incapable of making a living in their home regions leave the countryside to seek employment in urban areas. Because there are no jobs for these dispossessed individuals, they and their families will end up living in slums of big cities as economic refugees.
2) Once the FTA with Colombia goes into effect and cheap commodities from the US flood the country, those Colombian farmers who do not flee to the cities will be pressed to become growers (or processors or distributors) of illegal crops just to feed their families. Because of the continuing 40+ year violent civil conflict in Colombia, the country already has the largest internally displaced population in the world, reaching nearly 3.5 million . Even absent the effects of a new FTA with the United States, Colombia currently produces as much as 80% of the world's cocaine.
3) Estimates vary, but according to some, prior to the implementation of NAFTA, the U.S. held an approximate $10 million trade surplus with Mexico. By 2007, 13 years after the trade agreement went into effect, that surplus had become a $91 billion trade deficit. With Canada and Mexico combined, the U.S. has taken a $24 billion trade deficit prior to NAFTA and turned it into a $190 billion deficit - a 691 percent increase. There is no reason to believe that the FTA with Colombia would have a different effect on US trade balance with that country.
4) The Colombia Free Trade Agreement will throw fuel on the fire of anti-immigration fervor in the United States. Should a Colombia FTA go into effect, diminished agricultural productivity and increasing unemployment will force thousands of Colombians from rural areas to make the perilous trip across the Mexico-US border. Beyond the agriculture sector, Mexico lost almost a million manufacturing jobs in just five years after passage of NAFTA. NAFTA has resulted in increased illegal immigration of Mexican citizens to the US in the years since its passage; undocumented immigrants in the US have increased to 12 million today from 3.9 million in 1993, accounting for an overall increase of over 300 percent . At the same time that Congressional leaders, political pundits, citizen activists and others are decrying the impact of millions of undocumented immigrants on the US economy at a moment of economic recession and high domestic unemployment, the President is considering introducing a trade agreement for ratification by the Congress that will inexorably lead to greater numbers of economic refugees flowing over the United States’ southern border.
5) The Colombia FTA will lead to expanded mining in particularly sensitive Amazonian ecosystems, causing severe ecological damage to the tropical forests and virgin lands of Colombia. The disruption caused by mining—particularly the vast amounts of water used in the process—will have dire consequences for people living in neighboring cities as their drinking water supplies are further diminished.
6) Former President Bill Clinton has acknowledged the failure of a similar U.S. trade policy with Haiti, the Caribbean Basin Partnership Act: "It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake," Clinton said before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else," he said .
7) Colombia remains the most dangerous nation in the world for labor union members and organizers. In the past 25 years, more than 2,850 labor activists have been killed in Colombia. Last year alone, 51 were murdered, an increase over 2009. Six trade unionists have been murdered so far this year, including two in the past 2 weeks. Just last Friday, May 14, 2011, the defense attorney for six leaders of the 2008 cane cutters’ strike was shot five times. He is in critical condition, and the legal defense of the labor leaders at risk. In Colombia, perpetrators of crimes against vulnerable populations are rarely tried, and are even more rarely convicted.
8) Much of the violence in Colombia over the decades has been directed at indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, the same vulnerable groups most likely to be negatively impacted by the proposed Colombia Free Trade Agreement. In the last several years paramilitary vigilantes have murdered, threatened, displaced, forcibly disappeared and continuously extorted countless residents of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous ancestral lands.
9) American workers are already hard-hit by unemployment and decreasing wage levels. The proposed Colombia Free Trade Agreement would create yet greater pressure on American workers to accept even lower wages. They would be competing with the labor market in Colombia, where some employers have used intimidation and violence to avoid having to offer good jobs with benefits such as health care, education and vacations.
I hope you join us in opposing this treaty by calling, faxing or emailing your Senators and Representative, urging them to vote against the Colombia FTA.
Ana Zambrano, Director