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April 07, 2009


A call to stop the imminent implementation of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement


Toronto, ON - On March 26, 2009, the Government of Canada introduced legislation (Bill C23) in the House of Commons that could lead in short order to the implementation of a Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. This move calls into question why this government would be providing legitimacy to what the UN has called the worst humanitarian disaster in the Western hemisphere.

There are now some 4 million displaced people in Colombia mainly due to paramilitary violence. Extra judicial killings by the country’s military have been on the rise in the 2007-2008 time period, with the latest “false positives” scandal implicating members of the armed forces in killing civilians and then dressing them up as guerillas in order to receive a reward.

The Canadian government refuses to acknowledge that Colombia’s President Uribe is part of the problem. Today, over 60 members of Congress, roughly 20%, have come under criminal investigation for collaborating with paramilitaries. Nearly all of these individuals are members of President Uribe’s inner circle.

“I find it unacceptable that the Canadian government intends to reward Colombia's rulers for the institutionalized violence that is being carried out with impunity on an almost daily basis” said Rick Arnold of the Canadian trade monitoring network Common Frontiers*.

Following Easter break parliamentarians will be given very little time to discuss the proposed Colombia trade deal before it is rushed to implementation – but what is the hurry? Colombia is not a significant trading partner for Canada. Less than 1% of Canada’s exports go to Colombia. About 80% of existing trade imports from Colombia already gets to Canada duty free. The Obama administration has put off ratifying a deal with Colombia sighting human rights concerns. Norway has just done the same.

“The only logical explanation I can see for the Harper government's fast-tracking of this trade deal is to do a favour for an ideological soul-mate in Bogotá. What Uribe is really after here is to be able to point to a done-deal with Canada in order to ratchet up the pressure on Obama to ratify a Bush era trade initiative that is currently stalled in Congress” said Rick Arnold.

Common Frontiers calls on parliamentarians and other concerned Canadians to stop this free trade deal with Colombia from being implemented. Canada should carry out a thorough human rights impact assessment as a prerequisite to any future fair trade agreement in the Americas.

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For further information please contact Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers coordinator at 905-352-2430.

*Common Frontiers is a multi-sectoral network of organizations involved in research, education and political action on issues related to economic integration in the Americas. Members of Common Frontiers include faith groups, trade unions, environmental groups, international development organizations, as well as student and other social sectors, all with a national/international mandate.