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New U.S. report finds FTA with Colombia would worsen labour conditions

A new report by Dēmos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization based in New York City, suggests the proposed U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement would worsen the plight of Colombia’s 18.2 workers, 60 per cent of which work in the informal sector mostly earning below minimum wage. Only 4.5 per cent of workers in Colombia are unionized, due partly to a hostile political environment where “more unionists are killed … than in the rest of the world combined,” says the report. But also because the current Uribe administration has eroded worker rights through laws that have reduced wages and transferred power to multinational capital.

The report concludes that

The U.S.-Colombia FTA will have negative impacts on several sectors of Colombian labor, including rural and agricultural workers, who are vulnerable to drug cultivation and violence. The Colombian government has not yet formed a plan to offset these impacts, nor does it seem incentivized to do so. In addition, the weak labor provisions and enforcement laid out in Chapter 17 of the agreement mean that it will be difficult for the U.S. to influence future activity of the Colombian government through the official FTA enforcement and sanction system.

Much like the case with the Canada-Colombia FTA, the report further argues that “the FTA’s negligible impacts on the U.S. economy do not provide a strong incentive to pass the FTA on economic grounds,” and:

As a chiefly political agreement then, the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement should be considered on political grounds. Colombia’s labor situation has become the central political obstacle to passing the FTA for a good reason-it is poor. In its current form, the FTA will not improve the state of unionists and workers in Colombia. Dēmos therefore recommends that the agreement not be ratified until its impacts on Colombian labor can be improved.

To read the report, The Likely Impact of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement on Colombian Workers, click here.