Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bowling for Colombians

Daniel García-Peña, VP of the leftist opposition party in Colombia, explains in the simplest possible terms why a free trade agreement would be "very negative for Canada and Colombia." :

"Canadian companies would be attracted to Colombia for all the wrong reasons, namely to take advantage of the country's weak labour, human rights and environmental laws.
Many companies will come to bypass the laws Canada has and take advantage of Colombian standards, which are much lower. In many ways [this could] promote the exploitation of workers."

Furthermore, Mr. García-Peña says, a trade deal could destroy the livelihoods of many small Colombian farmers by flooding the market with subsidized agricultural imports. "The small peasant farmer would be unable to compete with the cheap imports of food," he says. "[This] would wipe them out."
Those who would benefit, he says, are the large agro-businesses in Colombia that would buy up the land of destitute farmers for the production of biodiesel, palm oil and beef for export.

Worst of all, Mr. García-Peña adds, these large agro-businesses have ties to the paramilitary squads at the heart of the ongoing rights abuses and violence in the South American country."

By "abuses and violence", Mr. Garcia-Pena is undoubtedly referring to the Uribe-backed public beheadings of trade unionists, and the murder of 800 union workers, teachers and journalists over the past six years.

US Congressman Michael Michaud, D. Maine, was in Ottawa on Wednesday to shore up opposition against the free trade deal with Colombia. He explained it simply too :
"Once you have a trade deal done, there is no incentive to move forward on human rights," he said.

Anyone having trouble with the reasoning here?

Harper visited Colombia in July 2007 to midwife this Bush-surrogate trade deal. There, with President Uribe at his side, he explained his position :
"When we see a country like Colombia that has decided to address its social, political and economic problems in an integrated way, that wants to embrace democracy and human rights, then we say, 'We're in,' he said."
"We are not going to say fix all your social, political and human rights problems and only then will we engage in trade relations with you.
"That's a ridiculous position," Harper said.

Sigh.

2 comments:

skdadl said...

One question, Alison: can Harper conclude a treaty like this without running it past Parliament? Do we know how much he can do on the sly?

Alison said...

1) No, but then again
2) No

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