In 2008, Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a trade unionist. The government has not been a neutral or benevolent actor in Colombia’s human rights nightmare. This short paper outlines key talking points surrounding the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and labour rights abuses. 2008 (pdf).
It is generally recognized that bilateral agreements, especially between a developing and a developed country, are not the best option and that multilateral negotiations and agreements are preferable as they are less discriminatory and allow a better bargaining position for the developing countries.
There are concerns that bilateral and regional trade agreements are incomplete, unequal, or counter-productive that even those who support the recent proliferation of the agreements believe must be addressed. The volume of agreements activity stretches negotiation capacities to their limit, and in the case of developing countries, prevents them from actively participating in all proceedings.
Additionally, there is a fear that in bilateral agreements formed outside the WTO, developing countries do not have the power of collective bargaining to negotiate in their best interest. For example, Chile concluded an agreement with the US in which it committed to lowering tariffs on agriculture products and deregulating investment, but could not gain any concessions from the US regarding farm subsidies.
‘Our planet is wrapped in a thick weft of international, regional and bilateral economic and financial agreements and treaties that have subordinated or taken the place of the basic tools of international and national human rights law (including the right to a safe environment), national Constitutions, economic legislation directed to national development and labor and social laws that tend to alleviate inequalities and exclusion.
This weft, as a consequence of the application of “the most favourable treatment” “national treatment” and “most favoured nation” clauses, that appear in almost every treaty, works as communicating glasses system, that allows neo-liberal policies circulate freely on a planetary scale and get into States, where they disintegrate national economies and provoke grave social harms.
All this involves the primacy of capital rights over democratic and human rights of peoples. Liberalisation and privatisation policies are consolidating –as a legally binding legal system-. It is a matter of making these policies non reverted through international agreements. It is the regression to a sort of feudal or corporative law, opposed to national and international public law, that works in the exclusive interest of the big transnational capital and those of rich states and to the detriment of fundamental rights of the so-called peripheral states and their peoples'.
(From Joint Statement submitted by the Europe Center – Third World, non-governmental organization with general consultative status and the American Association of Jurists. Commission on Human Rights, 56th period of sessions – July 26 to August 13, 2004. See full text . (Pdf format)
Collective effort to share information and stimulate cooperation against bilateral trade and investment agreements that are opening countries to the deepest forms of penetration by transnational corporations. It provides information on several bilateral and regional trade agreements, reports and news.
African Secretariat of the Third World Network that carries out Research and Advocacy on issues of social and economic policy that advances the needs and interests of peoples of African and other third world countries (especially marginalized social groups), a fair distribution of world's resources, and forms of development which are sustainable and fulfil human needs.
More countries are now engaging in bilateral free trade agreements with developed countries. Often, these FTAs contain issues that the developing countries have rejected in the World Trade Organisation, and oblige developing countries to cut their tariffs more steeply and open up their service sectors. The effects can be devastating, as the case of Mexican agriculture shows. September 2005.
A free trade deal between the United States and the tiny Persian Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain is causing friction with other Arab states, which say the pact could weaken their economic bloc ahead of future trade talks with Washington. Under the deal Bahrain will open its services market wider than any other U.S. trading partner, adopt Washington's preferred intellectual property rules and open government procurement to U.S. companies. The Bush administration has completed FTAs with 10 other countries: Chile, Singapore, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Australia, Morocco and the Dominican Republic. It is currently negotiating deals with ten other relatively small markets as part of its strategy: Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand, and with the five nations of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) -- Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. December 2004.
Developing countries have entered into a large number of bilateral investment treaties, free trade agreements or regional trade agreements that, among other matters, include provisions for the protection of foreign investors on the basis of most-favoured-nation and national treatment principles. Under these agreements, host countries assume broad obligations for the protection of foreign investments, particularly against expropriation and strife. August 2004.
With world trade talks reviving, adherents of the multilateral trade system are hoping this will slow down the proliferation of bilateral free trade agreements. Many groups are calling for a review of the implications of such biletarl agreements.By Martin Khor.
Under the deal Bahrain will open its services market wider than any other U.S. trading partner, adopt Washington's preferred intellectual property rules and open government procurement to U.S. companies. December 2004.
It is logical that some of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, chiefly Saudi Arabia, are not convinced about Bahrain’s decision to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States. Such has been the opposition to the September pact - which is yet to come into force - that some of them are even urging Manama to back away from the deal and "honor a regional agreement." December 2004.
"The Chilean Alliance for Just and Responsible Trade (ACJR) and the Alliance for Responsible Trade (ART) declare our great disappointment with the results of the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between our two nations. While we do not oppose economic integration as such, we insist that it serve to promote equitable and sustainable development for all of the countries involved. We are very concerned that this bilateral accord, instead of serving that goal, simply replicates many of the terms of the failed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Chile-Canada Free Trade Agreement and will likely prove disastrous for social, gender and economic equity, jobs and wages, and the environments in our two countries".
In 2008, Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a trade unionist. This paper outlines key talking points surrounding the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and labour rights abuses. The agreement investment rules replicate the extreme investor privileges and investor-state private enforcement found in NAFTA and CAFTA. 2008 (pdf).
This new report shows that the Colombian government prioritizes military security for the country to guarantee private investment and contends that this strategy will bring personal security for its people. In reality, the result is increased militarization and the kind of private investment, such as natural resource extraction and development of cash crops, which actually escalate the conflict and insecurity. Moreover, these policies are carried out at the expense of social investment, such as education and healthcare. April 2008 (pdf).
The U.S.-Colombia FTA and its links to militarization is yet another manifestation of the "one-size-fits-all" model that does not live up to the interfaith principles and the AFSC working party document entitled "Putting Dignity at the Heart of the Global Economy". In addition, given the state of war and largely U.S. funded militarization in Colombia, a new principle is provided that states, "International trade and investment systems should be designed to diminish the likelihood and longevity of violent conflicts". Examples that the FTA does not measure up to the principles are highlighted in this report. August 2006.
The free trade agreement that Thailand has been negotiating with the United States will violate the human rights of Thai people and affect the country's sovereignty; thus negotiations should not resume until a thorough review of its impact is undertaken. This was the conclusion of a draft report of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. January 31, 2007.
Ten thousand people protested in Chiengmai recently as talks took place on a Thai-US free trade agreement. AIDS patients, NGOs, senators and the World Health Organisation voiced concerns that the agreement would prevent Thais from having cheaper medicines. Bilateral FTAs have become a matter of life and death. February 2006.
Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti has questioned government plans to introduce genetically modified agricultural produce. This was in response to the inclusion of trade in GMOs in a free trade agreement to be negotiated between Thailand and the US. June 2004.
The agreement has attracted growing opposition and concern among many Thai social movement, trade union and NGO actors, as well as from some academics and farmers. List of links with different opinions.
The incorporation of similar ‘TRIPS-plus’ standards into the US-Thai FTA could seriously hamper Thailand’s HIV/AIDS programmes, depriving thousands of people of effective treatment. Pdf format. July 2004.
This letter was sent to members of US Congress requesting them to oppose the US-Morocco agreement because "it includes an array of the worst labor, environmental, investment, health, drug access, procurement and service sector failures of NAFTA. This FTA, which has a text almost identical to the highly controversial CAFTA, can only be understood as an extension of the NAFTA model". July 20, 2004. Pdf format.
The Philippines and Japan are negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement, officially called the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). If the deal is signed, it will be the Philippines’ first bilateral free trade pact. With the collapse of the WTO talks in Cancun, developed countries like the US, the EU and Japan are pursuing the “new issues” in bilateral and regional free trade deals, where individual or groups of developing countries are more vulnerable to pressure. October 2004.
The Australian Federal Senate will most likely rubber stamp a few obscure amendments to the Customs Act to activate the recently negotiated Thai-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). While debate on the TAFTA in Australia barely spread beyond a few offices in Canberra, Thai farmers and workers took to the streets in protest at a trade deal that sells them out. By Ben Moxham, November 2004.
Why do a bilateral or regional trade deal with the European Union (EU)? What benefits will it bring? These are questions that should be on the lips of developing country governments as the European Commission ranges around the world trying to implement its ‘Global Europe’ strategy; an aggressive agenda to secure access for European companies to markets in the developing world. This report is aimed at helping provide answers to these questions by analysing two previous trade agreements between the EU and developing countries. April 2008 (pdf).
When the EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into force in 2000, the then EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy touted its significance for the future of Europe’s trade strategy. It has since served as a model for further Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs) between the EU and Latin American countries and regions. Seven years on, though, the impact of the EU-Mexico FTA is clear. Instead of the promised economic and social benefits, the treaty has left the Mexican state unable to implement policies to promote local small and medium size companies. Mexico’s finance sector is now at the mercy of EU capital, while across various economic sectors the FTA has worked to the benefit of European transnational corporations and to the detriment of Mexican industries. The Mexican example should serve as a warning to other countries in the global South, argue Rodolfo Aguirre Reveles and Manuel Perez Rocha. Where reciprocal trade and investment agreements are made between highly unequal economic actors, these damage national and local economic development and benefit only a handful of transnational corporations. June 2007.
Two articles by Roberto Bissio, analysing the irreparable mistakes that Uruguay could be making in case of signing an FTA with the United States with regards to the imposition of intellectual property regulations and the opening of state services to competition. August 2006.