United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 12, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. BACHUS. Madam Speaker, the free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia means jobs. If you are looking for bright spots in the U.S. economy, our trading relationship with Colombia is one of them. Even though we have been operating under a handicap to competitors like Argentina because of higher tariffs and duties, American exports to Colombia have been growing. Our exports last year were worth $12.1 billion, up 26 percent, and the International Trade Commission estimates this agreement will increase exports by at least another $1.1 billion.

* Each of those exports supports jobs in the United States, not to mention jobs in the State of Alabama. Colombia is one of Alabama's best export markets in this hemisphere, and it is an excellent customer for high-value manufactured products like machinery and transportation equipment. Our former Governor Bob Riley demonstrated the importance of the partnership when he led a trade delegation to Colombia in 2009, and it is my view that this agreement will create even more opportunities for mutually beneficial trade.

* Colombia is a strategic ally committed to a free market economy. Working together, our governments have made progress in addressing the scourge of narcotics. The Colombian government has also instituted major labor reforms, and the labor provisions in this agreement reflect the government's commitment to protect those rights. For the record, I am submitting information I received from the Colombian Ambassador to the U.S. regarding the Action Plan on labor protections.

* The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will open up new avenues of cooperation between our two countries, and provide an immediate boost to our farmers, the textile industry, our energy industry, and our manufacturers to name just a few. It is a win-win agreement and I am pleased to support it.

Colombia Has Achieved All of the Action Plan Milestones

September 15 Milestones: ``Colombia continues to meet its milestones for the action plan.''--Deputy USTR Miriam Sapiro, September 23, 2011.

June 15 Milestones: ``The Action Plan is designed to significantly increase labor protections in Colombia, and we are pleased that Colombia is meeting its commitments. We are eager to see Congress move the Colombia trade agreement forward as soon as possible (.....).''--USTR Ron Kirk, June 13, 2011.

April 22 Milestones: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees ``indicating that Colombia has taken the necessary steps, consistent with the April 22 milestones outlined in the Action Plan, to move to the next stage in the process.''--USTR Ron Kirk, May 4, 2011. Colombia is on the Right Track: Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Workers and the Respect to Human Rights

``On September 8, 2011, the Department of State determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian Government is meeting statutory criteria related to human rights.''--U.S. State Department, September 15, 2011.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee that has monitored Colombia since 1985, excluded Colombia in June 2010 and again this year from the list of countries that need special monitoring.--ILO, June 2011.

For the first time in more than a decade, Colombia has been selected as a titular member of the ILO Governing Body for the 2011-2014 term. Colombia was elected with 96 percent of votes from the tripartite delegations of 182 countries around the world.--ILO, June 2011. Colombian Government and Labor Unions: Working Hand In Hand

An effective Three-Party Agreement was signed by the Colombian Government, labor unions and employers to strengthen democracy and advance the social dialogue on labor issues. The Agreement, which was originally signed in June 2006, was updated in May 2011 to reaffirm all three parties' commitment to reestablishing a social dialogue to generate solutions on labor-related issues and address conflicts and differences.--May 2011.

The Colombian Government and Colombian Federation of Educators--Fecode, which represents 250,000 educators--signed an historic agreement on May 4, 2011 that will improve working conditions and the quality of life for the nation's educators. ``We achieved very important points and discussed important topics such as the teachers' status. As teachers, we have welcomed this agreement.''--Senén Niño, President of Fecode. June 15, 2011. Trade Unions and NGO Express Support for Action Plan and Progressive Agenda

On the Progressive Agenda: ``The General Labor Confederation (CGT) salutes the achievements of the Administration of President Juan Manuel Santos during his first year in office. The Administration has enacted a series of policies of enormous value to workers and all Colombians.''--CGT, August 11, 2011.

On the Progressive Agenda: ``The agenda that is being constructed at this moment is the result of a constant battle and the work of the Colombian union movement with the support of international unions. The measures contained in the agreement signed by Presidents Santos and Obama last week, the recommendations of the High Level Mission of the OIT that visited us in February, and President Santos' programs on labor are all measures that the union movement has advocated for years.''--Luciano Sanin, Director of the National Union School (ENS), April 2011.

On the Action Plan: ``It is a step in the right direction that the President (Santos) deepened the agreement so that the topics of union liberty, human rights and guarantees for workers are included in the FTA.''--Julio Roberto Gomez, General Secretary of the CGT, April 8, 2011. A View from Outside: ``Colombia's Progress Deserves Support''

``The best way to encourage Mr. Santos to take further steps to end impunity and protect activists, political candidates and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities is to approve the FTA.'' (.....) ``Democrats should join in ratifying the Colombia pact, and they should credit progress on human rights.''--Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President, International Crisis Group and Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, September 18, 2011.

``We commend President Juan Manuel Santos's commitment to compensate the victims of violence and return confiscated land to poor farmers. And we applaud efforts to reduce homicides of union members, which Colombia reports have declined by nearly 90% since 2002. These are significant steps. The FTA will further Colombia's progress by providing clear protections for fundamental labor rights.''--Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT), Wall Street Journal Op-ed, April 4, 2011.

``A Gain for Workers.'' In an article on labor cooperatives, Revista Semana highlighted that the new decree that tackles illegal forms of labor intermediation ``is very good news for the working class (.....) 300,000 jobs will be formalized (.....) several companies are already adjusting to the new standard. Carrefour added 600 employees to its payroll, representing additional annual costs of about 5,000 million pesos (US$2.5 million). Exito has hired 2,500 packers, as part of a plan that includes the direct hiring of 6,250 employees this year. This will cost Exito about 70,000 million pesos per year (US$35 millon).''--Revista Semana, June 18, 2011. The Colombian news weekly Revista Semana was awarded in 2009 by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) with the Charles A. Perlik, Jr. Award for Excellence in the Field of Print Journalism throughout the hemisphere.