The Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed in November of 2006, and if ratified, would expand NAFTA to the region. In fact, it would be the largest Western Hemisphere pact since NAFTA. Past free trade deals have failed to live up to the promise of prosperity, and have served to further benefit multinational corporations. This one appears to be no different.
In an effort to pass the Colombia FTA, President Bush used the national security card much like he did with CAFTA. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flexed a little muscle, passing a motion to exempt the accord from the 90-day legislative deadline. This had many opponents of the agreement prematurely celebrating, and news headlines stating it was dead. In reality, all the vote did was delay matters for the time being. The Democrats are on record as saying that they don’t want to kill the accord, and only wish to postpone and use it as leverage. This delay could affect the approval of pending trade agreements with South Korea and Panama .
There have been some question marks surrounding Pelosi’s leadership, and there are accusations that her latest move amounts to nothing more than playing politics. As it stands right now, the accord would have little chance of passing. Some have suggested that in actuality, her actions might insure its future passage. She might succeed in getting a few concessions, and proclaim that the Democrats along with U.S. and Colombian workers have won some major victory. What shouldn’t be overlooked in this power move is the constitutional authority that Congress still has over branches of the federal government, but all too often fails to exercise.
The Colombia FTA threatens U.S. sovereignty, and would allow foreign corporations to challenge food safety regulations and environmental protections as barriers to trade. It further promotes privatization and deregulation of key public services. There has been a push for Latin American governments to sell national water resources to private corporations. This trade agreement also provides these corporations with another source of cheap labor and threatens American workers by placing them in competition with Colombia ’s lower wages. This will lead to further depressed wages and the loss of more jobs. Despite assurances to the contrary, it undermines labor and environmental standards.
The Colombian government has one of the worst human rights violations records in the region, and has come under fire for its links to paramilitary death squads. It is one of the most dangerous places for trade unionists, as many have been killed. Promoting human rights should be a priority, and corrupt and scandalous regimes should not be rewarded unless there are dramatic changes. Many of President Alvaro Uribe’s closest political associates and members of his family have been sent to prison or are under investigation for ties to paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers. This is a government that does not value human rights, freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. This accord would give the Colombian government international approval and recognition, and it sends the wrong message.
The Colombia FTA is part of the destructive cycle of other trade deals that have sacrificed more then they have gained. It would allow for the further domination of U.S. trade policies by multinational corporations, and the surrender of more sovereignty. It is another move for more central economic and political governance. This is also taking place with the continued integration of Canada , the U.S. , and Mexico into a North American Union. The Colombia FTA is essentially taking the Security and Prosperity Partnership structure to Latin America , and will be used as a stepping stone to the FTAA and the creation of a Pan-American Union.