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Trade Deals That are Neither Free Nor Fair

October 7, 2011, 12:51 pm | Posted by Jessica Barba Brown

cargo ship.jpgWith Congress poised to pass three sweeping Bush-era trade deals with Korea, Colombia, and Panama next week, both conservative think tanks and the Obama Administration are getting ready to celebrate a legislative victory. But what kind of victory are these deals for the millions of people whose lives will be directly affected by them?

First, the notion that these deals will actually create jobs in the U.S. is dubious at best. We heard the same promises during the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) debate but recent economic analysis has proven the opposite happened.

The President himself seems to recognize this given that he made passage of the deals contingent on approving more assistance for workers who have lost their jobs as a result of free trade. The current jobs crisis we face only compounds the immorality of pushing unfair deals that will leave American workers further and further behind.

Faith communities, in particular, are shedding a light on the troubling human rights abuses in Colombia that could be exacerbated by that trade deal. The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness recently organized a protest against the deal:

Along with other groups, OPW and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship helped organize the protest. Leaders from both groups spoke alongside environmental activists and trade unionists from the United States and Colombia about the devastating consequences the free trade agreement would have on laborers, farmers, Afro-Colombians and other Colombian citizens.

Participants surrounded the stage with 51 cardboard coffins representing the 51 trade unionists killed in Colombia in 2010 — more than the number killed during the same time period in the rest of the world combined.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also warned that, “Further displacement exacerbated by inadequate trade agreement provisions will hurt the poorest people in Colombia’s rural areas.”

While some in Washington may see passage of these deals as a victory, faith communities agree that there is no victory in punishing American workers and hurting the most vulnerable around the world.

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