Red Colombiana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio, Recalca

Colombian Action Network in Response to Free Trade

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Bogotá - Colombia, November 14th, 2007.

Colombia and Peru’s FTA with Canada:

Profits for transnational corporations and poverty for people*

The Colombian and Peruvian governments, despite the past failures of neo-liberal policies, are determined to sign Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with more developed nations, imposing a failed recipe on their own people while attempting to pass it off as a ‘development’ strategy. These new FTAs, just like the ones currently being negotiated with the European Union, with the European Free Trade Association, and with Canada, reinforce what these two South American nations have already given away as part of the trade deal with the United States.

Canada accepted a request from Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Alan Garcia, and on the 16th of July, 2007 the negotiations for a new FTA got under way. After the first three rounds of negotiations, the Canadian intentions are clear: not to accept anything less than what the US and EU have exacted to date. Stephen Harper’s government states that Canada has remained on the sidelines for too long while markets are being captured by more aggressive competitor states. For Canada it is claimed that this FTA with Colombia and Peru will bring “significant commercial benefits for many sectors of the Canadian economy.” These two countries represent “established markets with growth potential for Canadian exporters and investors.” It is in fact this area that is of most interest in the current negotiations.

Historically Canada has supported and promoted ‘free trade’ throughout the Americas claiming that to do so is to help countries to strengthen democracy, human rights, sustainable human development, while in fact the purpose is to buttress the presence of its transnationals in the hemisphere. Following the 2001 attack on the US, Canada’s foreign policy has grown ever closer to Bush’s even though his policies have proven to be spectacular international failures.

Far from ensuring greater global security, continental economic policy and the FTAs promoted by the US, and that Canada seeks to copy, are the reason that Latin America and the Caribbean represent today one of the regions of the world that suffers from the greatest levels of poverty, inequality, violence and migration. On its present course the Canadian government will have to bear the responsibility for deepening the underdevelopment in the region given that such a trade agreement will only benefit corporations while relegating millions of citizens to a life of misery in violence-plagued shanty towns ringing Colombian and Peruvian cities. To try and eke out living, some of these impoverished people will turn to producing illicit drugs, or be forced to immigrate to a Northern nation such as has been the destiny for some 3 million Colombians who have already fled, of which 30,000 arrive annually in Canada.

The Canadian government appears unperturbed to be negotiating with Alvaro Uribe, a President who currently has 15 of his closest associates, including the country’s Head of Intelligence, in jail because of their ties with narcotraffickers and paramilitaries, along with 28 more officials including the President’s cousin also under investigation.
Civil society organizations both in Canada and Colombia are challenging these negotiations. Concern about this ‘free trade’ deal with Colombia has also been expressed by the New Democratic Party of Canada, stating that these negotiations “ignore the serious concerns about human rights” and the “unstable security situation in Colombia with official indifference being shown to the rights of indigenous communities, including frequent conflicts over the rights to natural resources.” NDP leader Jack Layton warns the Canadian government that it will have to seek the support of Parliament before signing another “Bush style free trade agreement”, and that furthermore the NDP won’t support this FTA because “it will deepen the crisis in the Canadian manufacturing sector”.

Even those countries that promote this model of globalization are not immune themselves from its negative impact on wages, the loss of good jobs leading to greater insecurity in the workplace. Countries that are following the US example are in the process of becoming wealthy nations ‘growing’ poverty.

We recognize the importance of improved relations between our respective nations, but this can not be achieved at the expense of one’s sovereignty and autonomy. This FTA is tailored made for the transnational corporations with more guarantees for them than for the population itself which legalizes the violation of people’s human, economic, cultural, environmental, and labour rights.

In this context perhaps it is not so surprising that these governments of ours are restricting citizen participation in these negotiations. If the word got out about horrifying implications of signing such a deal, people wouldn’t support it. The Canadian government has gone so far as to ask Colombian negotiators not to share the labour texts with Canadian unions and non-governmental organizations, while the Colombian and Peruvian governments maintain a veil of secrecy over the talks thus denying their civil societies an opportunity to participate.

These negotiations are not legitimate, and Uribe, Garcia, and Harper are serving the interests of major corporations instead of representing the wishes and the needs of our peoples. The FTA that is currently under negotiation involving Colombia, Peru, and Canada will be a carbon copy of the deal struck with the US with all its negative consequences for our communities intact. It is no surprise then to realize that Canada will not accept anything less in this trade deal than what has been given away to this continent’s superpower. The script for these negotiations has already been written and we can’t expect to see a different outcome.

By going down this ‘free trade’ road, Harper will be garnering international opprobrium just as Bush did. That is why our networks call on all the social organizations in Canada, Colombia and Peru to rally against this aggression, and in particular call on Canadians to stop this imposition of an economic model that will also bring negative consequences for their own wellbeing.

* Translated from Spanish by Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers-Canada

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