A Letter From Colombia To US On Free Trade Treaty
An Open Letter To The Senators And Congress Members Of The United States Of America On The Free Trade Treaty
Jorge Enrique Robledo
Translated by Toni Solo
Not one single organization representing urban workers, rural workers, indigenous peoples, students, intellectuals and other popular sectors in Colombia supports the Free Trade Treaty with the United States. Indeed, the majority of business people's organizations opposed the treaty's text right up until February 27th, the day its signing was forced through. But we do not reject the Free Trade Treaty because we are opposed on principle to international negotiations or relations with the United States. We oppose it because it sacrifices the sovereignty of Colombia, annexes the national economy to that of the United States and deprives the country of the main tools for development, all of which will bring poverty to almost all the Colombian people.
The Free Trade Treaty renders irreversible the neo-liberal reforms of the last fifteen years, which caused enormous losses to industry and agriculture, replaced public monopolies with private ones and generated the worst social disaster of the twentieth century. The regression in employment and poverty was so great that the country has yet to recoup the indicators prior to the crisis and suffers some of the worst social inequality in the world.
Official studies indicate that Colombia's imports as a result of the Free Trade Treaty will grow at double the rate of those of the United States and that Colombian exporters, in competition with US exporters, will lose sales to the Andean countries. Because Colombia will eliminate its tariffs and the United States, apart from enjoying the power of an economy 129 times bigger, will maintain its immense subsidies. Furthermore, Colombia almost eliminated its sanitary controls for products from the United States while the White House maintained all its own against Colombian goods.
As a result of what was imposed in the intellectual property chapter, Colombia gives up production of complex industrial goods and progress in science and technology. This chapter, will also cause sickness and death among Colombians since it will make medicines dearer by about US$900m a year according to the Panamerican Health Organization. And the agreements on telecommunications and arbitration tribunals damage the interests of official businesses and the Colombian State.
The norms on investments and public procurement concede unprecedented advantages to US monopoly businesses in Colombia and it is a cruel joke to say that Colombians will enjoy the same advantages in the United States. It is especially serious that the Treaty snatches away from Colombia its right to a balance of payments clause, a mechanism authorised even by the IMF and whose absence could mean disastrous losses for the country. And the Free Trade Treaty also consolidates the handing over to foreigners of the financial system imposing unpayable costs on Colombia for it to decide exchange and interest rates.
The Free Trade Treaty's supporters say that US investments will more than cover the damage the Treaty will cause Colombians' ability to generate internal savings. But they keep quiet about how environmental and labour conditions will deteriorate in order to attract those investments, changes that the Free Trade Treaty expressly authorizes (Articles 17.2 and 18.2). And it is common knowledge that Colombia now has various legal reforms to cheapen the price of labour, that it is easier to maintain an illegal armed organization in the country than a trades union and that an ideological campaign is under way to cut the minimum wage, just as it is well known that the current government is so uninterested in the environment that it was capable of fumigating the La Macarena national park with powerful toxins.
Our rejection of the Free Trade Treaty also takes into account that the destruction of agriculture may oblige more Colombians to grow coca and poppy and that "free trade" enriches United States monopoly businesses while the economic conditions of its people deteriorate.
Those of us in the Congresses of Colombia and the Untied States who hold with authentically democratic ideas must work hard for better relations between the two countries. But in all sincerity I tell you that the imperial logic that inspires the Free Trade Treaty opposes those relations. And so that is why one of our duties is to reject that Treaty.
Jorge Enrique Robledo
Senator of the Republic of Colombia
Polo Democrático Alternativo