Corporate interests have been going into overdrive pushing the flawed NAFTA-style deals with Colombia, Panama and Korea. As we've documented before, a lot of the statistics that they bandy about as support for their position are misleading, incomplete, or makes apples-to-oranges comparisons.
It's one thing when these statistics have to do with economic accounting abstractions like export values: the argument could be wrong, but it doesn't hit you on an emotional level.
Not so with the latest deeply offensive talking point from the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, now being cited by Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association, who writes:
The battle over free trade has taken a crass -- and dishonest -- turn thanks to an ad campaign run by the AFL-CIO which suggests a free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia is "about murder" of Colombian labor organizers. The ad, which features a coffin, applauds the "brave union leaders" of Colombia who are lobbying Congress to reject the proposed agreement. The AFL-CIO claims that to approve the FTA would be to condone the murders of union leaders in Colombia.
What's the ads don't mention is that the Colombian union leaders visiting Washington this week are in more danger here than in their home country. In fact, according to statistics cited by the Heritage Foundation, the murder rate in Washington is 33.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the 5.3 for Colombian unionists.
I can't remember the last time I read anything so callous or tone deaf. The reason that labor, faith and human rights groups have highlighted the Colombian unionist assasination numbers is because many if not all of these murders in Colombia occur because of the unionists' activities.
The D.C. murder rate is heartbreaking. But how many of these murders occur because someone is attempting to exercise their union rights? Zero. That's the relevant comparison.
Unionist murders in Colombia are, by contrast, political, and are often carried out with state complicity.
Two closing thoughts.
First, the plan that the Obama administration is pushing does not require an end to these murders before the pact go into place. That is a tragedy and missed opportunity.
Second, much as employment and competition in the illegal drug sector drive DC's murder rate, the Colombian government's own studies predict an exacerbation of such problems in Colombia if the FTA is implemented. Given the rural displacement and further impoverishment the Colombia FTA is projected to cause, the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture concluded that the FTA would give small farmers little choice but “migration to the cities or other countries (especially the United States), working in drug cultivation zones, or affiliating with illegal armed groups.”
In sum, while the Colombia FTA does not require Colombia's unionist murder rate to come down to the zero rate of Washington, D.C., it may in fact drive Colombia's overall (non-unionist) murder rate up to Washington, D.C. levels.