Yesterday, it was announced that Colombia has moved forward with additional measures to improve labor laws, a required by deal with the Obama Administration in order to implement the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The Colombian governments efforts include implementing legislation to create a separate Labor Ministry, moving legislation to increase criminal penalties to those who violate workers’ rights, and accelerating the timetable in which to establish additional laws that with strengthen the country’s labor environment.
It’s wonderful to see Colombia continuing to make strides in stopping union violence and improving the overall labor situation, but this is something the country has been doing for quite sometime now. Since 2002, homicides of union members have gone down by 90 percent. Additionally, the International Labor Organization has found Colombia to be in compliance with international labor standards. This issue is just another in a long list of excuses Obama has put forth as reasons to stall pending trade agreements.
The fact is, stalling the Colombia FTA is doing more harm to the very workers Obama is purportedly trying to protect. Legitimate economic opportunities resulting from trade liberalization stabilize nations plagued by narcotics trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism. Colombia is a prime example of how open markets have led to better paying jobs and less violence.
But let’s not forget that trade is a two way street that benefits both parties. When enacted, U.S. exports will increase $1.1 billion annually and the U.S. GDP is expected to grow by $2.5 billion per year. Passage of the US-Colombia FTA will create thousands of additional American jobs.
Whether it’s the issue of the Korean auto market or expanding the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, President Obama has proven time and again that the only constituency he cares about benefiting is American organized labor at the expense of the entire U.S. and Colombian economies.