News Analysis: Workers’ Rights are Focus of Colombia and U.S. FTA

| May 30, 2012 | BY WRAP

The free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia took force on May 15, 2012.

The FTA was only finalized following President Obama’s approval of Colombia’s labor protection efforts. The trade deal was approved by the U.S. in October 2011, but did not go into effect until Obama was certain Colombia had improved labor and union conditions, focusing on prevention of killings of union workers by terrorists and protection of workers’ rights. The President spoke with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in March to check on progress and the two presidents discussed the subject in person at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena on April 15, 2012.

Additionally, Colombia will create a new labor ministry, provide workers with the right to organize, prosecute previous acts of violence against union workers, and work to protect unions and their workers. The United States will provide “technical assistance” throughout the process.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk while at the Summit said the agreement creates “an opportunity to help stand up for the rights of workers.”

On May 15 at midnight, a plane filled with flowers left Bogota for the United States as the first shipment under the agreement, the BBC reported. A Harley-Davidson motorcycle was the first U.S. export to Colombia under the FTA.

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