Press Release

July 7, 2011

Washington, DC – Senate and House Democrats today offered nearly identical measures in an effort to include the Action Plan Related to Labor Rights in the Colombia FTA implementing bill. The Action Plan is an agreement between Colombia and the United States on how Colombia is addressing issues of worker rights, violence and impunity. The amendments were offered in the Senate Finance Committee by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland and in the House Ways and Means Committee by Ranking Member Sander Levin of Michigan.

As noted by Ranking Member Levin in his opening statement this morning, there are many important commitments under the Action Plan that are scheduled to be completed after a likely vote on the Colombia FTA, most of these commitments by the end of this year. Entry into force of the FTA would take at least six months after a vote, so linking the FTA to the Action Plan would add further assurance for the completion of Action Plan commitments. Furthermore, the FTA includes a fully enforceable worker rights standard that makes it vital to include a clear reference in the implementation legislation to the Action Plan and its specific provisions; they provide an important context for enforcement of the FTA worker rights standard.  It also signals that the Administration is fully committed to enforcing worker rights under the FTA.

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Member of the Senate Finance Committee, said: “Colombia should not be rewarded with prime trade status with the United States unless it fulfills its international obligations to uphold basic human rights. With their new government and Labor Action Plan, they are making strides, but are still suffering from labor and human rights violations. Making the agreed upon Labor Action Plan part of the core agreement would have helped assure its effective implementation. As a nation, we cannot condone sacrificing the rights of workers in the name of trade.”

Congressman Sander Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee, said: “What has held up consideration of the Colombia FTA are labor laws and practices that did not meet international standards, violence against workers, and impunity for those who committed the violence.  The development of an Action Plan on worker rights – and its agreement between our government and the Colombian government – represented a vital prerequisite to action on the Colombia FTA. Its omission from the Colombia FTA implementing bill is a fatal flaw.”