In July Congress took up a major trade package that includes free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. All these pacts are flawed in their own way, but none is more problematic than the proposed deal with Colombia, which would reward a political elite that has long repressed labor unions and could devastate that country’s rural farmers. President Obama entered office vowing to strengthen the links between trade and human rights. A good start would have been to junk the Colombia FTA altogether, which was negotiated under George W. Bush. Instead, the administration set out to improve the agreement through negotiations with Colombia’s new president, Juan Manuel Santos. The result, unveiled in April, was a side agreement called the Action Plan, which lays out a series of promised steps by Colombia to bolster labor rights. If the Obama administration thought the Action Plan would appease progressive critics of the FTA, it soon learned otherwise. The plan was instantly condemned by nearly every major US labor union, as well as the Sierra Club and leading progressives in Congress. Critics noted that fifty-one union officials were assassinated in Colombia in 2010—more than in all other nations combined and an increase… Read full this story
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