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For Immediate Release

Press Release

Minnesota Fair Trade Urges President Obama not to Green Light Columbia Free Trade Agreement

MINNESOTA -

The Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition has sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to put greater pressure on the Colombian government to complete and enforce protections for workers before implementing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. As the President travels to Cartegna, Colombia for the Summit for the Organization of American States, it has been speculated that he will green light the agreement to go forward. However, it is clear that Colombia is still one of the most dangerous places in the world for workers to stand up for their rights.

“Workers continue to live in fear in Colombia,” says Josh Wise, director of the MN Fair Trade Coalition. “Last year, 30 trade unionists were murdered, and this year there have already been 4 murders with no prosecution. It would unconscionable for the US to approve a race to the bottom for worker protections by implementing this agreement before Colombia fulfills its responsibilities.”

As a part of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Colombia was required to implement a Labor Action Plan, which would outlaw many of the worst employment practices, and give workers the rights and protections to organize. MN Fair Trade Coalition member organization, Witness for Peace, recently led a delegation to Colombia to speak with workers, and found that the Labor Action Plan is nowhere near being effectively enforced. “Colombian union leaders were killed immediately before and following my trip to Colombia with Witness for Peace in February,” says Jessica Hayssen, one of the delegates. “Echoing the Colombians I met with, I do not see the Colombian government taking significant action to prevent violence against labor leaders, a key part of the Labor Action Plan. Major decisions to implement key parts of the Free Trade Agreement, especially parts that affect worker’s lives and livelihoods should be based on concrete action, not conveniently scheduled world leader meetings.”

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The Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC) is a national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups founded in 1992 to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). We are united in a common belief that international trade and investment are not ends unto themselves, but instead must be viewed as a means for achieving other societal goals such as economic justice, human rights, healthy communities, and a sound environment.

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