Texas Liberal

All People Matter

The Free Trade Agreement With Colombia & Free Trade Agreements In General

I watched a U.S. Trade mission to Colombia a few days ago on C-Span.  

You can watch it by clicking the link that says Vignette on U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The video will remain up on C-Span for another week or two.

The roughly half-hour I watched of the show involved U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives touring Medellin, Colombia and meeting with various officials. 

The photo above is of Medellin. 2.4 million people live in the city and 3.2 million people live in the area of the city. Here is a brief history of the city

My friends at the AFL-CIO oppose this agreement. They say that union workers are routinely killed in Colombia and that the deal will result in lost American jobs.  

This blog, Plan Colombia and Beyond, is opposed on human rights grounds.

I have little doubt that the right-wing government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is on the wrong side of many basic human rights questions.

Here are arguments for the pact from a government web page dedicated to trade agreements.

Currently, the deal is stuck in disagreement between the Democratic House and President Bush.

Of the nine House members on the trip, there were seven Republicans and two Democrats.

I was intrested in the presence of the two Democratic House members in the trade delegation.   

The two were Rep. Bob Etheridge of North Carolina and Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia.  

In his profile in the 2008 Almanac of American Politics , Rep. Etheridge is portrayed as slightly left-of-center on economic issues. He is also listed as a Democrat in the minority in his party in that he reliably supports free trade agreements. He was elected to Congress in 1996. 

Mr. Etheridge represents some agricultural areas and some of the Raleigh-Durham high-tech research areas. The Almanac says that some farmers and high-tech executives have supported trade agreements. Mr. Etheridge says North Carolina has lost some jobs from these agreements, but that  “we’ve been a net winner.”   

Many in North Carolina feel that many textile and furniture making jobs have been lost to foreign competition. 

Is Mr. Etheridge sincere, or is he simply responding to powerful forces in his district? Who can know? He may not even know himself. 

Hank Johnson represents a majority Black portion of the Atlanta suburbs. He is a freshman member of the House. He is also one of two Buddhist members of the House. ( More on the two Buddhist members in an upcoming post.)

Mr. Johnson opposes the deal.  Here is what it says on his House web page–

Hank opposes the deal due to President Bush’s refusal to sign into law trade adjustment assistance for Americans threatened by international trade, the FTA’s insufficient labor standards for Colombian workers, and the deal’s potential effects on poor Afro-Colombians who may be driven off of their land as multinational companies seek to exploit Colombian natural resources.

Here pictures of the trip on Mr. Johnson’s House web page.      

Mr. Johnson seems like a peaceful man from what I saw of him on C-Span.

I have mixed feelings on our international trade agreements.

On one hand, I have zero faith in the Bush administration to protect rights of workers and the environment in the countries we do business with.

Nor I do I believe the Bush people or Republicans in Congress have any real concern for American workers.

On the other hand, we are a big powerful country in an interconnected world. As such, we have both an obligation and a practical need to help others live decent lives and to be part of a world economy. 

Also, we can’t blame people in other countries for the fact that don’t educate out kids well and that we often seem to live far beyond our means.  

I wish I could trust the people in the United States who negotiate these deals to be both economically just and socially moral. Hopefully, some trust will be possible if a Democrat replaces President Bush next year.

Here is a BBC overview of the current political situation in Colombia.   

April 23, 2008 - Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , ,

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