Tuesday, January 22, 2013

COLOMBIA WATCH- Free Trade and Workers’ Rights in Colombia: “Peace” the European Way
Ignoring fierce opposition from labour unions and their allies on both sides of the Atlantic, the European Parliament voted yes to a free trade agreement with Colombia this past December 11. The FTA's passage adds yet another layer of absurdity to the European Union’s recent Nobel Peace Prize win, as the agreement is an affront to workers’ and indeed human rights in Colombia, where union activists and members of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are regularly sacrificed on the altar of foreign multinational corporations.As is to be expected, the powerful interests cheerleading the FTA have trotted out the usual talking points: it will deliver jobs and prosperity, increase investment, facilitate trade, support “open societies and market economies”, promote the sustainable development of Colombia’s natural resources, support human and workers’ rights, etc. These are either outright lies (the sustainable development of natural resources), misleading claims (prosperity for whom?), or vague assertions cloaked in liberal rhetoric that presuppose inherent benefits of, for example, market economies and foreign direct investment. Then again, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the starving of entire populations through austerity measures, systematic oppression and criminalization of undocumented people, and sponsorship of a massive weapons fair in Tel Aviv on the eve of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza passes for the promotion of peace.The EU-Colombia agreement comes on the heels of a US-Colombia FTA, and a full 22 years after the country began to lower many of its tariffs –among other radical policy changes– in order to implement IMF and World Bank structural adjustment policies. Suffice it to say that in the first decade following the introduction of neoliberalism, small and medium-sized enterprises could no longer compete with manufactured products from abroad, the country went from being a self-sufficient food producer to a major food importer –all while millions of acres of arable land lay idle–, and official unemployment virtually doubled as the precarious informal economy burgeoned. Although trade with Colombia only amounts to a mere 0.3% of the EU’s total trade, the FTA will deepen this neoliberal tendency, enriching large European corporations at the expense of the Colombian people.Take, for example, Europe’s extremely competitive dairy industry. As the Transnational Institute points out, the EU spends ten times as much on subsidies to its producers than do their Colombian counterparts, and mainly produces dairy products such as whey, while Colombia’s chief export is simply milk. The FTA imposes the EU’s strict industrial system on Colombia, and the arrival of European milk and dairy products will weaken the national industry, resulting in the loss of many jobs and negatively affecting cultural traditions and eating habits. This adds up to a further loss of both food security and food sovereignty for the South American nation.Mining, in turn, accounts for a third of all total foreign direct investment in Colombia. Coal is the most important mineral, and the EU is the main player, as it receives more than half of total coal exports, and a full two thirds of the coal extracted from the main coal-producing regions is mined by European transnationals, which benefit greatly from tax loopholes that deprive the Colombian state of much-needed revenue. Indeed, according to a recent report by SOMO, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, the FTA makes it more difficult to regulate capital flows and increases the risk of money laundering and tax evasion. [[[[[[Much like NAFTA and the shady Trans Pacific Partnership, the EU-Colombia FTA amounts to a corporate coup, with corporations given the right to file suits against the Colombian state if denied a license due to environmental concerns. This is particularly disturbing because mining in Colombia has been linked to the destruction of ecosystems, the poisoning of water sources, and genocidal violence against indigenous communities.]]]Dave Feldman is an activist for social rights and migrants’ rights and is currently studying for a Masters’ degree in Paris.
[ed notes;these are just a few excerpts,click link for whole article..

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