WASHINGTON - July 11 - Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica had this statement at a rally in opposition to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement held in front of the White House today:
“Friends of the Earth calls on Congress and President Obama to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, along with proposed agreements with Korea and Panama. These pending trade deals are based on a failed model that has harmed the environment and workers.
“These agreements would grant expansive new rights to foreign investors to sue governments before international tribunals for the cost of complying with environmental and other public interest regulations. Consider the investment suit that resulted from CAFTA. Pacific Rim, a multinational corporation, sought to mine for gold in El Salvador, using dangerous cyanide leach methods. This threatened the water supply of poor communities. Communities fought back, local activists were murdered, but finally the people of El Salvador won new safeguards from their government. But Pacific Rim sued the Salvadoran government through an international tribunal, demanding millions of dollars for this alleged violation of its property rights.
“Now the United States Congress is considering a free trade agreement with Colombia that is very similar to CAFTA. Under the investment chapter of the Colombia agreement, the governments of both parties could be forced to pay to regulate in the public interest, as if environmental regulations were a government ‘taking’ of real property needed to widen a highway for which the government must pay the owners fair value. The fact that an attack like this would even be possible highlights what is wrong with this trade agreement model. We strongly urge the president and Congress to reject more harmful trade agreements.”