CCIC Releases Analysis of Colombia Free Trade Deal

March 26, 2009

CCIC is releasing an analysis of the text of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, tabled by the federal government in Parliament today. Making a Bad Situation Worse, was compiled by CCIC in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

"We are very disappointed to see the government moving ahead with the Colombia agreement," says Gerry Barr, CCIC's President and CEO. "It fails to reflect such basic Canadian values as respect for human rights, economic justice and protection of the environment."

Trade can support development and the realization of human rights if it brings benefits to vulnerable populations and allows states to promote social development and protect the environment. The CCIC analysis finds neither the political conditions in Colombia nor the terms of this deal meet those conditions.

The Commons Standing Committee on International Trade concluded in 2008 that the FTA should not proceed without improvements in the human rights situation in Colombia, and without a comprehensive and independent human rights impact assessment. Those recommendations have been ignored.

The experts' analysis of the terms of the agreement shows the FTA will hurt small-scale farmers, expose indigenous people, Afro-Colombians and rural dwellers to land grabs by Canadian mining companies armed with new investor rights with no binding responsibilities, and further chill democratic dissent.

"The only rights this agreement guarantees are the rights of investors," says Scott Sinclair. Senior Research Fellow at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. "The labour and environmental side agreements are ineffectual by comparison."

Barr adds that the Standing Committee called for legislation requiring Canadian corporations investing in Colombia to observe universal human rights standards.

"We are equally disappointed to note that the government's response to the recommendations of the joint industry/civil society Advisory Group on Corporate Social Responsibility, also tabled today, falls far short of what that consensus called for."

See the Executive Summary of Making a Bad Situation Worse. The full text of the analysis is available on the CCIC website.

For more information, please contact:

Peter Puxley
Media Relations
Canadian Council for International Co-operation

Jeff Atkinson
Canadian Labour Congress

Scott Sinclair
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Mark Rowlinson
Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers