The president of Colombia’s Confederation of Workers [CUT] on Wednesday said “it is regrettable that the Government feels satisfaction with the ratification of the FTA with the European Union.”
According to Domingo Tovar, “Colombia continues to export fewer products today” in spite of its 13 free trade agreements. The union president pointed to the economic crisis gripping the European Union, specifically countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Italy, as reasons why the new FTA is a bad idea. In Tovar’s estimation, the results of the new FTA with the EU will be one-sided and not in Colombia’s favor.
“There are 23 countries that are in the worst conditions [economically] and we can not expect anything from these situations [countries],” the union president explained.
“Colombia has 20 million people [living] below the poverty line and of those, eight million [live] in extreme poverty. They [multinational companies] take the profits and the Colombian people are subsumed in poverty. The multinationals have made big gains in the country, [but poverty] continues to increase.”
The European Parliament’s Tuesday approval of a free trade agreement with Colombia was met with mixed emotions.
In President Santos’ mind, the pact marked the beginning of “a new era that will bring more prosperity and jobs to Colombians.”
Human and labor rights organizations objected, however, claiming Colombia was not in compliance with international labor and human rights norms. The country’s embassy in Brussels last week wrote an open letter that attempted to disprove this notion by pointing to the “concrete steps” the government had taken in improving labor and human rights in Colombia.
Nevertheless, according to Tovar, 17 trade unionists were murdered last year and another 260 remain under threat. Despite its protestations, “the Colombian government does not meet the recommendations of the high-level mission of the ILO [International Labor Organization],” Tovar said.