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  Trading Away Human Rights. Why the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is a Step in the Wrong Direction

Policy paper issued by the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), representing over 6 million workers, Justice for Colombia campaign, the Irish Congress of Trade Union (ICTU) is the national trade union centre in Ireland, representing over 830,000 working people, Unite, with over 2 million members in both the public and private sectors and Workers Uniting, representing 3 million workers in the UK and Ireland, and the United Steelworkers, the largest private sector trade union in the USA and Canada.


1. Human Rights in Colombia

2. Trade Union Rights in Colombia

3. Impunity

4. Dangerous Accusations

5. The Position of the European Commission


Appendix 1 : Canada, the EFTA and the United States

Appendix 2 : “Effective Implementation” of Core Labour Standards



The European Commission is currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia. With serious and systematic violations of human and trade union rights in Colombia, such negotiations will not help the situation but instead appear to legitimise it.

The proposed Agreement would give special trade preferences to a government that has done little to respect workers’ rights and has repeatedly failed to implement its international human and trade union rights obligations. Colombia remains the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists, and impunity remains the norm in the vast majority of cases of human rights violations.

The Colombian regime has dedicated substantial resources to a public relations campaign to convince the international community that the situation is improving. However, contrary to its claims, this report shows that assassinations of trade unionists, extrajudicial executions, forced displacement, torture and forced disappearances have all recently increased. It also highlights how measures taken by the Colombian authorities to address the problem of impunity for perpetrators have been wholly inadequate.

Colombian civil society organisations, including all three of Colombia’s trade union confederations, have expressed strong opposition to the proposed FTA3. They, like European civil society organisations, have also expressed disappointment at the lack of any wider consultation process in the FTA negotiations.

For the EU to press ahead with such an agreement would send completely the wrong signal and demonstrate an astonishing lack of regard for human and workers’ rights. Rewarding Colombia with a trade deal before there has been an improvement in the situation would also clearly be at odds with the EU’s desire to advance the protection of human rights internationally. Similar trade agreements that Colombia has negotiated with Canada, the United States, and the EFTA group of countries have all been delayed owing to human rights concerns. For the EU to unilaterally press ahead with such an agreement is therefore also out of step with the international consensus on this issue.

Only 0.3% of EU trade is with Colombia, and EU-commissioned modelling of the proposed deal concludes that it will have no practical impact on EU employment or wages. Therefore the main effect of this trade deal is not economic, but a political upgrading of relations with the Colombian regime, effectively endorsing its terrible human rights record.4 We therefore call for an immediate halt to the EU’s trade negotiations with Colombia.

Enlazando Alternativas | Red Birregional UE - ALC | 2007
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