U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce Colombia has met the labor rights conditions demanded for final approval of its Free Trade Agreement, despite the continued killing of unionists., reported Radio Caracol.
The announcement, expected at the Summit of the Americas to be held this month in Cartagena, will give the green light for the final passage of the wide-ranging agreement that will eliminate trade tariffs and is expected to boost trade between the two countries.
In April 2011, the U.S. Congress and the government of Colombia agreed upon a comprehensive Action Plan that would include “major, swift and concrete steps” for the national authorities to take before the implementation of the FTA. The main concerns surrounded the exploitation of workers and the safety of trade unionists, who have long been a target of violence for illegal armed groups.
In February, the U.S. said Colombia had still not met its commitments to protect workers rights — but Obama’s announcement will signal U.S. concerns have now been assauged.
The expected finalization of the agreement comes as one of the United States largest unions, the American Federation of Labor, sent a letter to Obama requesting that the FTA be scrapped due to Colombia’s continued labour rights abuses.
“Moving quickly towards implementation would jeopardize future improvements for Colombian workers and undermine efforts to secure rights – including labor and human rights – which would harm workers in both countries,” said Richard Trumka, president of the union in the letter.
Dozens of trade unionists were killed in 2011 — the government says 30, unions say 51 — and four have been killed this year, according to the National School of Labor, a Colombian trade union.