Okay — another big roadblock for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and not surprisingly, it’s coming from Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee and longtime crony of the trade unions. In a talk yesterday at the Peterson Institute, Levin said that before the pending trade agreement is considered, Colombia has to change its laws. Yes, that’s right, he wants to tell another sovereign nation that its laws aren’t up to snuff with “international standards” relating to workers and unions and it has to change them before the U.S. will consider entering into a trade pact with Colombia.
For several years, we made clear to the Colombian government that changes to its laws needed to be made to bring them into compliance with international standards including the areas discussed above before the FTA could be considered. Unfortunately, little action was taken by the Colombians during these years.
He talks about “little action” during the previous administration of former President Uribe, but facts speak otherwise. In recent years, Colombia has passed new labor laws, put into effect a new judicial system, inaugurated a protection program for trade union leaders, and brought in a permanent representative of the International Labor Organization. Current President Juan Manuel Santos has already taken significant steps to further improve the judicial system.
Here’s also what the State Department has written about that country and progress under the Uribe Presidency:
Although much attention has been focused on the security aspects of Colombia’s situation, the Uribe government also made significant efforts on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development, strengthening rule of law, protecting human rights, promoting governance, and reducing poverty.
Rep. Levin and some of his protectionist friends don’t really seem to have an interest in improving conditions in Colombia. If they did, they would support this trade agreement. As CEI has noted previously:
Through increased trade and the resulting economic growth, Colombia can provide a different model for the region—one based on the principles of democracy and free markets. Colombia has a long way to go in combating crime, terrorism, and poverty, but it has come a long way already. It should be encouraged to build on those efforts, and the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement can be a critical tool toward that goal.