President Obama has given up the only leverage the United States has to improve labor rights in Colombia. Plans and expressions of good intentions mean little in Colombia, where over 2,800 trade unionists have been murdered since 1986, including 51 last year and three teachers killed already in 2011. It is time for action and results, which will require the United States to use its leverage by withholding implementation of the Free Trade Agreement that Colombia ardently desires. Most of the killers who have been identified have been from paramilitary groups or the Colombian military, and the Colombian government has done little to prosecute those guilty of the killings. In 2010, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights determined that, for those cases involving killings by the Colombian military between 2004 and 2008, a verdict has been reached only 6% of the time.
The White House claims that the proposed trade agreement will support $1.1 billion in exports and “thousands of jobs.” The analytic models used by the U.S. International Trade Commission to generate such estimates for trade agreements with Mexico, China, and other countries have consistently failed to accurately project the outcome of such agreements. In fact, U.S. imports usually rise much faster than exports after such agreements are implemented, leading to growing trade deficits and job displacement. EPI has estimated that the proposed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will result in the loss or displacement of 55,000 U.S. jobs.