Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inside the International Trade Committee

Debate on the Canada-Colombia FTA resumed at the International Trade Committee today with the Chair stating he wasn't going to allow a whole lot of witnesses to testify just so they could put it on their resume. Very classy, Mr. Chair.

Today's first witness today was Yessika Hoyos Morales, lawyer, Colombian human rights activist, and the daughter of a murdered trade unionist.

Paramilitaries are still in place in 293 Colombian municipalities, she said, and the Office of the Public Prosecutor, as of Sept 2009, has been carrying out investigations into 2,077 executions of people killed by the national army.

While the government has announced an effort to protect trade unionists and human rights people, the Department of Administrative Security scandal has put paid to that. DAS infiltrated human rights groups and then passed lists on to paramilitary groups to target their members, including judges, with intimidation and murder. Ironically, DAS is now promising to work with these same human rights groups to produce human rights reports for Colombia as part of Canada's FTA conditions.

Gauri Sreenivasan, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, was next up. CCIC believes in the potential of trade agreements to lift people out of poverty, she said, but not this agreement. Why, she asked, is the violence in Colombia always spoken of in terms of fights between rival drug gangs with no mention made of the DAS scandal overseen by Uribe's chosen successor? Or the policy of false positives, the army's extrajudicial killing of civilians who are later dressed up as guerrillas to increase the battle body count which secures more US aid for fighting guerrillas and traffickers.

4.9 million people are displaced in Colombia, second only to Sudan. Violence and displacement are directly linked to the struggle for control over land for the development of resources including the oil, minerals, and gas that Canadian companies are heavily involved in. The UN Raconteur For Internally Displaced People has said the taking over of lands is now a policy of displacement. Who accesses those lands for profit?

The deal is a fairly typical aggressive market access agreement. The safeguards and side deals are quite ineffective. New powers of enforcement to secure access to resources that would discourage future environmental and human rights laws. The Colombian government could not introduce laws to deal with illegal seizure of land after Canadian corps in place. There is no obligation on the part of corporations to screen their security forces and no provision for victims of corporate violations to have access to Canadian courts for violations created by Canadian corps.

Agriculture market access. A very aggressive liberalization of Colombian markets would accelerate displacement. Lifting tariffs on grains, wheat, and pork will undermine 12.000 local wheat farmers and 9000 jobs in informal pork sector. This FTA eliminates measures to protect farmers.

Side note : For an amusing counterpoint to her argument on tariffs, see Con committee member Brad Trost's argument in today's National Post on why this FTA will be good for Colombians :
"Free trade in agriculture will also allow the poor and other consumers to purchase foodstuffs at lower prices because tariffs on Canadian wheat, barley, lentils, peas and other crops will disappear."

This FTA does not even met Nafta standards, Sreenivasan continued. There's no independent means of enforcement and the whole mechanism of the side accord relies exclusively on the goodwill of the governments to enforce the accord. With fines only.

What happened to the proposed independent human rights assessment before implementation?
Canada's seal of approval only serves to pave the way for a US-Colombia deal, currently stalled over human rights complaints.

After all that, it was hard to imagine what former Con now Liberal Scott Brison would counter with. This deal is pretty much his baby in committee now, ever since he forged the Liberal figleaf amendment that would see each country produce ongoing yearly human rights reports instead of a preceding independent one, killed off by the Con in the House in 2008.
Take it away, Scott! :
"It's the most robust FTA agreement ever signed between any two countries.
There's only one party in Colombia against FTAs and it's polling at 5%. Isn't it culturally condescending and sanctimonious for us in Canada to say Colombians don't have the right to self-governance? They are an independent country."
Wow. Scott also asked witness Yessika Morales, daughter of a murdered trade unionist, if things haven't improved and if she didn't feel safer now.
Who is holding the "stupid" gun to Scott Brison's head?
Stewart in Colombia : Liberals Misinforming Public to Promote a FTA with Colombia.


skdadl said...

Great report, Alison -- thank you very much. I'll try working on some snark for Brison's line about our being culturally condescending and sanctimonious (... if we don't actively exploit a country that is already severely traumatized). Just checked again your list of Liberals who voted for the bill at second reading -- what a wall of shame, eh?

Alison said...

Wall of shame - Corporate Party Liberals who voted with the Cons on C-2 this month:
Ignatieff, Dion, Rae, Bagnell, Brison, Bagnell, Belanger, Crombie, Cuzner, Dryden, Kirsty Duncan, Easter, Eyking, Fry, Garneau, Goodale, Holland, Hall Findlay, LeBlanc, MacAuley, McCallum, McGuinty, John McKay, Mendes, Shawn Murphy, Murray, Oliphant, Proulx, Ratansi, Regan, Rota, and Russell.

The Colombian press is reporting the FTA as a done deal which will create jobs, jobs, jobs. Presumably the big rush is to help Uribe's proposed successor, Defense Minister Santos, to win next month's election.
OTOH, Skdadl, this guy is looking pretty good. ;-)

thwap said...

The Milliken decision made me proud to be Canadian. It made me proud of our political traditions.

Stuff like this makes me disgusted.

Blog Archive