APRIL 19, 2012 8:06AM

Jill Stein: Obama’s Colombian Trade Deal ‘Race to Bottom'

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An angry Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein had this to say about Obama’s certification last Sunday of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

President Obama called it a win-win. No, it's a lose-lose for workers. It's a deadly assault on the freedom of Colombian workers to organize, as well as on the freedom of American workers from unfair competition from workers who make poverty wages because they are violently repressed.

It is a trade pact, explained Stein, in which more than 80 percent of industrial and manufactured products exported from the U.S. and from Colombia will be duty free. More than half of U.S. agriculture exports to Colombia will also become duty free.


The U.S. agricultural exports are not so-called free trade but subsidized trade. Many of them receive federal agribusiness subsidies. They will flood Colombian markets, displace Colombian farmers, reduce Colombia's food self reliance, and push farmers and farmworkers into the manufacturing labor market to further lower wages there. The trade deal is job killer for American workers and a wage depressor for Colombian workers.


This trade pact is a jobs export pact. Manufacturing jobs are going to flow from the U.S. to Colombia, where violence and intimidation against trade unionists makes the labor cheap.


Yes, I am for protecting people and planet. I support trade governed by rules designed to level-up labor and environmental standards to a high common level instead creating a race to the bottom. We need real free trade between free peoples in free markets. This trade deal favors the giant manufacturing oligopolies and subsidized agribusinesses at the expense of workers in both countries.


It's a deadly assault on the freedom of Colombian workers to organize, as well as on the freedom of American workers from unfair competition from workers who make poverty wages because they are violently repressed.

Last Sunday Obama announced the May 15th implementation of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement at a news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the end of the Summit of Americas in Colombia’s Cartagena, a resort city. Congress had passed the trade agreement and Obama had signed it last October. The administration PROMISED FIRST to certify that Colombia would enhance its labor protection efforts. Ron Kirk, a US Trade Representative said that Colombia was going to better enforce homicide laws against killers of union organizers and anti-organizing laws.

Stein is not buying it. She has noted that 4,000 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered in the last 20 years per the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center. There have only been a few prosecutions for this colossal violence.

Stein goes on:

The killings of union organizers have not stopped. In 2011, 51 union organizers were murdered, according to the National School of Labor, a Colombian trade union. Four more have been killed so far this year.


Let's first see the murders stopped, the death squads prosecuted and convicted, the unions organized, and decent union contracts signed with the companies. Then we can talk about reducing trade barriers with Colombia.

Stein is not the only one livid about this administration’s cavalier attitude toward Colombia's horrifying history of anti-union violence as well as this administration's easy sell-out of American workers.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka via the AP called out Obama for putting "commercial interests above the interests of workers and their trade unions" by certifying the Colombian labor plan.

Also via AP, a lawyer with the United Steelworkers, Dan Kovalik said Obama's announcement was "premature in light of the continued violence against unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia.” 

Re the United Steelworkers, Stein’s website discloses:

...the United Steelworkers of America was a plaintiff in two lawsuits against Coca-Cola on behalf of a sister Colombian trade union. The lawsuits charged that Coca-Cola bottlers, "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders.

Coca-Cola bottlers contracted with paramilitary thugs to use extreme violence to murder, torture, detain, silence trade union leaders.

Doesn’t make me proud to be an American. Enjoy your next Coke and try not to think about death squads snuffing out union members.

Wouldn’t it be nice to curb psychopathic corporations from murder and torture for profit?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a President like Jill Stein who actually cares about worker salaries and basic human rights protections for our citizens and foreign citizens? Who doesn’t believe profits should prevail over the safety and existence of human beings?

Stein is for Peace, People and Planet.

Not so Obama. Not so Romney. A/k/a Obomney!

[cross-posted at correntewire and sacramento for democracy] 

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I'm not sure I understand all of this. Or maybe it is too early in the ay for me to concentrate on economics. Jill Stein is indeed a brilliant person. How all of her policies would play out another thing.

"Stein is for Peace, People and Planet."

In the game of politics, in DC..she would be up to her waist in alligators.If you can't do deals...you can't get anywhere. Sad but true. It is the way of the world. All of these economic summits are about deal making and everyone wants their turn at the helm.

Interesting post. I learned from it. That is good.
Jill Stein's getting my vote, not that it makes any difference, but I don't think that Obama's a villain in this deal... he is and has always been a facilitator who sits folks down to find consensus and deals with all issues from the perspective of the long term. Management sponsored violence and labor strife has a long history all over the world... it seems to be the nature of the beast.
The good news is that progress as often as not the violence is reconciled to mutual benefit. The bad news is that leadership is more often than not corrupted and compromised and benefits are eroded. As a good find of mine has always said, "..the struggle never ends. That's why we do what we do."
Globalization should include the spread of human rights, workers right, environmental protection, the free press and more; under the current circumstances it doesn't.

Instead it involves a race to the bottom and those that support it are requiring workers to compete around the world while the corporations consolidate and avoid real competition.

Obama is supporting this and therefore I must disagree with Jmac although I support his intentions. Obama sits folks down from the corporations but not the majority.
That's why Stein and you and me ain't got a prayer against the addled oligarchy, because we're for Peace, People and Planet. How dare us!!
Ande, thanks for your comment but there is deal-making and then there is poor, CREEPY deal making. There is deal making as explained above that will take subsidized agricultural products and flood Colombia with them to put their farmers out of business who will join the ranks of the desperate Colombian manufacturing workers who work dirt cheap when they get it since our psychopathic corporations pay off thugs to intimidate through violence and even murder union organizers. Therefore, the wage is deplorably low.

So Colombia will take even more manufacturing jobs from American workers so that the corporations can save money manufacturing from there rather than the US, outsourcing even more than they have been doing. LOSE/LOSE.

A lazy and pimped out to corporations Congress and a lazy and pimped out to corporations Obama should have made a deal that had the lower 99% people more in mind. One that used their clout to do something about the violence in Colombia, not reward it, or not have the President say a simple intention of doing better as well as help the job situation here and there, not mutually worsen it. The 99% globally is getting screwed by the ruling elite in every country.

I am hoping a Jill Stein in power will DRAIN the swamp, begin the drainage. The Obama administration went the opposite way, has raised the swamp and added quicksand. I believe you are giving back to me a a kind of myopic cynicism, "deals will be deals" here.

Just like we give Israel $3 billion a year (when the US needs it domestically now) and wonder why they won't lessen the settlement building or the violence and threats of violence.

Saying "that's the way of the world" comes across as very cynical and/or condescending. Cheerleading for "lesser evilism."

As I read the other responses, you sure don't seem to be alone and it really bums me out.

Wow, jmac. I am disappointed. Your comment I find rather cynical and patronizing. We're talking about the elimination of unions and jobs, and in Colombia not just the elimination of unions but the physical "elimination" of human beings promoting unions by the likes of Coca Cola bottlers and companies like that. Yawn????? Are you one more Obama apologist willing to stay myopic and "pragmatic" a/k/a non-empathetic to the reality of what is happening now? yadda yadda yadda????? Is that all you hear? I don't see the "progress" in this you imply exists somewhere with the bad. No wonder there is so little difference between the Dems and the Republicans. Citizens willing to discourage and patronize other citizens calling out evil as naive. Obama is either on board with colossal continuing exploitation or he is the naive and incompetent one. But let's justify his behavior by calling those who call him out too idealistic? Ick.
baltimore, oh go away and come back when you get some minimal manners.
Zachd and Chicken Maaan, THANK YOU!!!! I was stunned by the myopic acceptance of the situation in comments above. Cynical faux-pragmatism. We got that in our leadership, and we got that too much in our citizenry. Charles Ferguson said he hoped Obama hadn't wiped out idealism for the next several generations after his betrayal of the 80 million who thought he would fight for right in government. I didn't realize the idealism would be wiped out in all age groups. I was worried about the young. Some of them thank God are spunky enough to fight in the OWS. Some of the non-young during this, Obama's toxic turn at bat (continuing and escalating Bushism) are dismissive of an honorable way. Don't think government is capable of enhanced integrity?

Telling those fighting corruption to grow up and deal and live with it has led to this fine mess the country is in!!!! I think of that if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem slogan right now.

DOCTOR Jill Stein has her work cut out for her since not only does she have to fight the corrupt ones, she has to fight the ferocious minimizing enabling apologists for our corrupt leadership BOTH DEM AND REPUBLICAN!!!

I wanted to start sending out specifics on an honorable platform for recovery from Stein hoping it would ripple outward beyond open salon, hoping open saloners might help me spread her policies. I guess I am naive. I am guess more open saloners than I reckoned on may champion "lesser evilism" because ... because ... because... I don't know. I don't get it.

Thanks for the support! Z and CM!!!

best, libby
Why, of course! Some big money is going to make money on the deal. Obama is just doing what he is told to do. It is the American Way. Excellent post, Libby. R
Hopefully Trunka is angry enough to withdraw the AFL-CIO endorsement of Obama in November.

Thanks for your excellent coverage of Stein's platform - it's really refreshing to hear at least one candidate talk about the issues.

By the way I disagree with the point of view that Obama isn't responsible for his behavior. That seems to be one of the myths the Democratic Party is promoting to lure back disenchanted progressives.
All these "free" trade deals do is put people out of work here so our jobs can be shipped to foreign nations where they employ virtual slaves that they intimidate and murder into compliance. Obama loves this since it pleases his corporate bosses.

Stein is, in my opinion, the best candidate suited for the office of the presidency. As far as I know she's the only candidate talking about creating jobs here in America via a Green New Deal, strengthening Social Security, Medicare, and other New Deal programs to help the poor, and ending the imperial wars along with the police state that sprung up from them.

(I do wish, though, that she would say something about prosecuting the Obama, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush regimes for crimes committed while in office.)
baltimore is a friend of frank's - that should tell one all they need to know about his sense of propriety and how seriously to take him.

The only difference between the two is that baltimore admits he's a conservative cretin and frank still suffers from the delusion that he's a moderate or even a rationalist, although one would NEVER know it from his "on a scale of one to ten, I can be found at position "P."

ANYWAY, as You know, I appreciate Your comments about Ms. Stein and could support her in a heartbeat, even if she weren't a woman (men are warriors], women; nurturers), simply based on her intelligence and courage.

What I find most amazing about the trip is how hard the media is stumbling all over themselves to avoid talking about how the incumbent liar-in-chief, as it is with most of his administration (and policies) is unable to even wield much effective leadership over his own secret service "team."