Although congressional ratification of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has been held up
for more than year over concerns about rampant crime and labor abuses, the National Council of
Textile Organizations (NCTO) says Colombia has cleaned up its act and the pact should be approved.
In a letter to the chairman of the US Trade Representative’s Trade Policy Staff Committee,
NCTO Vice President Michael S. Hubbard said members of his association who have worked in Colombia
for years through selling offices and joint ventures say they have witnessed the gains Colombia has
made with regard to protection of Colombian workers’ fundamental rights and “an extraordinary
reduction in violence in the country.” He also underscored the importance of more liberal trade
with Colombia to the US textile industry.
Saying that Colombia is a small but important market for US textile products, Hubbard said
US exports are not commodity products but higher-value-added goods such as yarns, premium denim and
wool products. He said at the present time, under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication
Act, Colombian exports enter the United States duty-free but US goods going into Colombia are
subject to high tariffs. He said the FTA would level the playing field and benefit
manufacturers in both countries.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has
opposed the FTA, charging that the Colombian government has turned its back on murders of labor
leaders and organizers. Until the AFL-CIO changes its position, it is unlikely the Obama
administration or the Democratic-controlled Congress will move forward with the pact.
The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, which includes textile manufacturers, is
opposed to the FTA, contending it will result in one-sided trade because Colombia is not a good
market for US manufactured goods. The National Textile Association, likewise, does not support the
pact because it does not meet its criteria for effective agreements.
October 6, 2009