Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Letter From RECALCA To US Rep Charles Rangel RE: The Free Trade Agreement Between The United States And Colombia by Héctor León Moncayo
As a coalition of union, environmental, peasant, and small business organizations, communities of Afro-Colombians and indigenous people, and women’s and human rights groups, we realize that the Democratic Party victory in the November 7 elections affords an opportunity to prevent various harmful effects inherent in the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Colombia. Many of these impending problems have been noted by leaders of the Democratic Party in the United States.
In this moment of reflection, we would like to give you our views about some of the impacts that the U.S.-Colombia FTA will have on Colombia.
In terms of labor, it is clear that the many assassinations of labor leaders in Colombia have been connected with a general deterioration of working conditions, an increase in unemployment, and restrictions on the right to organize unions. The violence is also related to the enactment of a series of labor laws that lessen standards for employers and diminish the ability of unions to stand for collective bargaining. The U.S.-Colombia FTA will not reverse this situation. On the contrary, it will provide a flexible framework that will support the continuance of these types of labor policies with the same, or even worse, results.
In terms of the environment, the government of President Uribe has sought to ensure that market forces take control of important natural resources such as forests, high desert ecosystems, water, etc. Increased cultivation of many of the export crops envisioned in the FTA will have grave and serious environmental effects, as is already the case with palm oil, coal, flowers, etc.
With regard to agriculture, we predict that the U.S.-Colombia FTA will deal a mortal blow to the production of staples fundamental to the Colombian diet, such as cereals, milk, and beef and pork products, accelerate the breakup of the agricultural sector, and create an unstable social situation ripe for increased violence and narcotraffficking.
In terms of intellectual property, the agreement will virtually eliminate generic drugs and will increase families’ expenditures on health care-a grave matter indeed, as 60% of the Colombian population lives in poverty.
Importantly, the United States Congress should be alarmed by the close association of the current Colombian administration with notorious cases of corruption and the links between leading government groups with narcotraffickers and paramilitary outfits.
Serious and well-documented critiques regarding each of the elements of the FTA listed above have been published already. (See for example Garay, 2006; Holguin Zamorano, 2005; Umaña, 2004; Robledo, 2006, among others). The Uribe administration in Colombia accepted unconditionally the goals and criteria of the Bush administration, which did not include representatives from the Democratic Party in the writing of the text of the agreement. Likewise, Colombia’s government did not take into account the views of vast sectors of public opinion as it agreed to the contents of the document.
The pitfalls of the agreement cannot be remedied merely by the incorporation of “side letters” or by a partial renegotiation.
We have indicated, and continue to insist, that we oppose seeking competitiveness in world markets at the expense of the deterioration of labor standards and environmental degradation, as the Colombian government is proposing. We believe that important segments of the American people agree with us that workers and the environment need stronger protections.
At the same time we believe in strengthening economic and trade relations under the principles of mutual benefit, respect for democratic rights, progress and equality. To that end, we are willing to work closely with you and with members of our own Congress.
HÉCTOR LEÓN MONCAYO
Red Colombiana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio, RECALCA
Organizations that belong to RECALCA:
Acción Permanente por la Paz;
Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, ACIN;
Asociación Censat Agua Viva;
Asociación Colombiana de
Ingenieros Agrónomos, ACIA;
Asociación de Industriales de Bogotá;
Asociación de Empresarios por la Salvación Industrial;
Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas Indígenas y Negras, ANMUCIC;
Asociación Nacional por la Salvación Agropecuaria;
Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, CUT;
Centro de Estudios del Trabajo, CEDETRABAJO;
Centro de Estudios Nueva Gaceta;
Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, CINEP;
Coordinadora de Mujeres Trabajadoras Andinas, capítulo Colombia, COMUANDE;
Confederación de Pensionados de Colombia, CPC;
Confederación de Trabajadores de Colombia, CTC;
Confederación General de Trabajadores, CGT;
Consumidores de Colombia, COCO;
Escuela para el Desarrollo de la Democracia, ESCUDE;
Federación Colombiana de Colegios de Contadores Públicos;
Federación Colombiana de Educadores, FECODE;
Federación Colombiana de Estudiantes de Contaduría Pública;
Federación Nacional de Profesores Universitarios;
Fundación América Latina;
Fundación Friedrich Ebert en Colombia, FESCOL;
Red Internacional de Género y Comercio, punto Focal Colombia;
Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos, ILSA;
Marcha Mundial de Mujeres;
Mesa Mujer y Economía;
Movimiento Comunal Comunitario;
Movimiento Popular Artístico Colombiano, MOPAC;
Organización Colombiana de Estudiantes, OCE;
Periódico Desde Abajo;
Plataforma de Derechos Humanos;
Democracia y Desarrollo, capítulo Colombia;
Colectivo Somos Sudacas;
Sindicato de Trabajadores del Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar, Sinbienestar;
Red de Veedurías Ciudadanas;
Corporación Viva la Ciudadanía;
Colectivo Libertario Banderas Negras;
Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, ONIC;
Coordinadora Nacional Agraria, CNA;
Convergencia Nacional Indígena, Negra y Campesina;
Acción Campesina Colombiana, ACC;
Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear;
Comisión Colombiana de Juristas;
Fundación de Apoyo Comunitario, Fundac;
Liga de Usuarios de Servicios Públicos Domiciliarios;
Unión Nacional de Usuarios y Defensores de Servicios Públicos Domiciliarios.
Héctor León Moncayo
Wednesday, January 31, 2007