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June 24, 2010
Colombian Action Network on Free Trade [RECALCA] - Bogotá, June 24, 2010

Free Trade Agreement with Canada is Bad News for Colombia

Translated from the original Spanish by Rick Arnold

Contrary to the euphoria displayed by the government of Uribe Velez over the ratification of the FTA with Canada, a glee that was also parroted by Colombian media outlets owned by foreign multinationals, this Treaty is bad news for the people of Colombia.

It is not true, as the Ministry of Commerce claims, that sales by Colombia to Canada will grow because of access to a large market. Exports to Canada don’t even represent 1% of the national total, and if we haven’t been exporting more it is not because of the lack of an FTA, but rather that the country just doesn’t produce what Canadians are interested in buying. More than 70% of what Colombia does export to Canada is primary products, without any value added, which will be the same items that Colombia will continue to export; and this stands in marked contrast to the 70% of industrial goods imported from Canada. Furthermore – to be clear – trade between the two countries has always benefited Canada. The trade balance over the past 15 years shows an accumulated deficit for Colombia of $3.334 billion.

In fact the objective of this FTA is not to foment trade but to protect the investments of Canadian multinational corporations, especially those linked to extractive activities like mining and petroleum. According to a statement released by Canadian M.P. Bernard Bigras on May 26, 2009, changes made to the mining act in 2009 effectively converting Colombia into a mining enclave for foreign capital were financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The Canadian Department of Finance in the person of Ms. Carol Nelder has corroborated the priority in the FTA placed on investment: “Colombia is an important destiny for Canadian investment. Our Embassy estimates this figure to be $3 billion. These investments, particularly in the extractive sectors, have opened the way for other exports such as machinery and mining equipment.” The real objective behind the FTA lies in providing an official cover for the looting of natural resources belonging to the Colombian people, the exploiting of the work force, while needed technological and scientific progress related to the national productive apparatus is impeded.

Canadian companies who thus seek advantage under cover of this FTA are complicit in the violation of human rights of workers, farmers, small-scale miners, and are going against the interests of Colombians in general. So what will this so-called human rights report that Colombia will be obliged to prepare for the Canadian government in the context of this FTA be verifying? Nothing! Not even to maintain a ‘façade’ of objectivity, because it would give bad optics to the Canadian companies.

Because this is really all about business deals, the Canadian Parliament, with the exception of the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, decided to cast their lot with Uribe, thereby becoming the only country to sign a free trade deal with Colombia, and the first to legitimize the Colombian government. This is a government that has an unending list of abuses of human rights, of labour rights, a record of persecution and annihilation of the opposition using the secret service (DAS), extrajudicial executions, links between its bagmen and paramilitary forces – all in all a track record that has scandalized democratic sectors around the world and that since 2006 has served to freeze the approval of trade negotiations with the USA.

Colombians have the right to peaceful resistance and mobilization, a right which they will exercise to continue their opposition to the ratification and implementation of this and any other FTA that runs counter to the interests of the majority of the population in Colombia.

RECALCA’s web page is www.recalca.org.co

* Translation into English by Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers-Canada

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