Today, the U.S. Congress held its first hearing on the pending Colombia, Panama and South Korea free trade agreements. In congressional testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee today, WOLA Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy Adam Isacson asked Members to remain solid in combating impunity and egregious abuses before bringing the trade agreement with Colombia up for a vote.
"The level of impunity for labor killings—is an absolutely crucial goalpost,” states Adam Isacson in his testimony. “The failure to hold killers accountable to the justice system goes way beyond labor cases. Even some of Colombia’s most infamous human rights cases have moved at a snail’s pace through the courts, if at all, because of the power enjoyed by their traditionally “above the law” perpetrators.”
Isacson argues that the alarming level of trade union violence, the violent drug fueled armed conflict, inequality, threats posed by successor paramilitary groups, and the country’s five million displaced persons differentiate Colombia from the conventional FTA debates focused on labor laws and conditions. Isacson insists, "The number one obstacle to immediate FTA approval is in one word—impunity.”
In his testimony, Isacson notes that the Santos Administration provides the U.S. Congress with the political opportunity for substantive and systematic labor and human rights changes to take place. However, he warns that the changes required will take time and heavy monitoring from the Congress and offers a series of guidelines for how to measure whether real results have taken place. "We need to know that change is taking root and that what we see is not more commissions or laws that won’t be enforced but real reform … past disappointments mean that commitments made in the coming months, no matter how solemnly promised, aren’t convincing by themselves.”
Isacson and a panel of experts will focus on “Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Colombia." The hearing begins at 10:00am E.S.T. in main Committee hearing room, 1100 Longworth House Office Building, and will be streamed online.