Enduring Flaws: FTA Deal With Colombia Still Has Major Problems

Enduring Flaws: FTA Deal With Colombia Still Has Major Problems

July 7, 2011
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The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, stalled in Congress since the George W. Bush Administration signed it in 2006, is likely to be voted on by legislators this summer as part of a broader trade package that also includes the pending pacts with Panama and South Korea.

In an effort to address the concerns of U.S. labor unions and Democratic lawmakers, the Obama Administration and the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos have agreed upon an "Action Plan" of labor- related revisions to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). While the Action Plan includes many positive elements, it does not address the most important concerns Demos outlined in a report about the Colombia FTA, published last year. Specifically, the Action Plan would do nothing to avoid the negative effects the FTA will likely have on rural Colombian workers, including unemployment, poverty, violence and displacement - effects that would exacerbate a security situation that remains fragile amid a long-running civil war.

Last year, Demos called for Congress to address the most negative consequences of the agreement on workers prior to ratifying the Colombia FTA. We do not believe that the Action Plan is a satisfactory response to widespread concerns about the FTA and thus recommend that Congress not ratify the agreement in its present form. Should Congress nevertheless move forward with ratification of the FTA, we recommend that the Obama Administration exercise its prerogative to delay implementation of the agreement until Colombia has demonstrated that it is making progress on the pledges outlined in the Action Plan.