This year’s trade deals with Colombia – first with the US and most recently with the EU – have been fiercely opposed by the trade union movements in Colombia, Europe and the USA. We told governments and politicians that Colombia hadn’t done enough on human rights to justify preferential trading arrangements. As a compromise, we negotiated language to require better human rights as a condition of the trade deals, but the US and EU refused to make those terms binding or enforceable.
The result of this faith in fine words is continuing harassment and violence for the Colombian trade union movement. In a cruel irony, just hours after the European Parliament eventually agreed the terms of the EU-Colombia-Peru free trade agreement, oil union leader Milton Rivas of the USO was gunned down in the street after several death threats.There have been more (as yet unconfirmed) deaths since, and it is abundantly clear that these trade deals has had little or no impact on Colombia’s reputation as the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. Attention will now turn to the national parliaments around Europe who still need to ratify the deal. Trade unionists will be pointing out with every death in Colombia that occurs, the minimal safeguards proffered by the trade deal are less and less believable.
Respect, by the way, to Labour’s MEPs who were the main group to oppose the EU trade deal. They stood by their principles against an inadequate deal, and deserve our praise for doing so.