Statement of Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global trade Watch:
Given the number of unionists murdered in Colombia has increased every year since the trade deal was signed and the same labor violations that led candidate Obama to oppose the deal remain it is obscene that he has certified that conditions have improved and thus the trade deal is ready to go into effect. Since 1986 nearly 3,000 union activists have been killed in the country, the rate jumped to 48 last year.
Obama’s actions kill any leverage the U.S. had to stop the violence against union organizers and sends the wrong message about the human rights situation in Colombia which makes this so-called “trade deal,” which is really nothing more than special perks for big business that will harm most people in both countries, doubly damaging.
In 2008, candidate Obama made his opposition to the Colombia FTA clear, saying he opposed the deal, “because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.” That violence has not stopped. Instead, President Obama has changed his position.
The politics of Obama’s action with this trade deal are totally inexplicable given this is not just another NAFTA, which polling shows most American despise, but one with the country that is globally notorious for murdering unionists and a deal that was passionately despised by the very union voters on whom Obama will rely to win key swing states and volunteer for the vaunted Obama campaign ground game.
In 2008 candidate Obama also said, “I realize that changing your position to suit the politics of the moment might be smart campaign tactics but isn't the kind of strong, principled leadership America needs right now.” I am sure that after the President’s actions this weekend announcing that the same terrible labor conditions in Colombia are suddenly ok and pushing implementation of another NAFTA-style trade agreement leaves many Americans wishing that President Obama behaved more like candidate Obama.
The agreement allows corporations from anywhere around the world with offices in Colombia and the U.S. to challenge U.S. or Colombian public interest regulations and laws before a secret tribunal of three commercial lawyers to demand the laws are dumped and tax payer dollars are paid in compensation.