The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Linda T. Sánchez) for 5 minutes.
Ms. LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to address the House and the American people regarding the Colombia free trade agreement and the negative impacts it will have on working families in the United States as well as Colombia.
Quite frankly, I am stumped as to why Congress is even considering this trade agreement. Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union worker. This year, 17 trade unionists were assassinated as of mid-June. Last year, 51 trade unionists were killed in Colombia.
As a Member of Congress, I have traveled to Colombia to see labor conditions there firsthand. We simply can't afford to approve an FTA with a nation as unsafe as Colombia which can't even enforce its own laws.
Like many of my colleagues, I was glad to see that the Obama administration negotiated a Labor Action Plan with the Colombian Government. Both morally and economically, it is imperative that Colombia address some of these concerns regarding human and labor rights for workers. The administration says the Labor Action Plan has been met. The problem is that the Labor Action Plan doesn't go far enough.
Many of my colleagues might question whether labor conditions in a foreign country could really impact job prospects of their constituents here in the United States. Well, when you consider that for years American workers have been competing for jobs with nations that have weaker labor and environmental standards, it is no wonder that we are losing jobs here in the United States.
Let me be blunt: if joining a union means putting your life on the line, there is no freedom. There is no fair competition. Without fair competition, we will see even more American jobs shipped overseas. I think we can all agree that the last thing that this country needs right now is to lose more jobs.
Let me be clear. I am committed to trade. Trade can benefit our Nation, our businesses, and our working families. In fact, I am a member of President Obama's Export Council, and the goal there is to double American exports in 5 years, not to export American jobs.
The fact of the matter is that the Colombia free trade agreement doesn't help American working families. It really benefits transnational corporations. These transnational corporations already repress Colombian workers. Nothing under this agreement makes the lives of Colombian workers better. Nothing under this agreement makes the lives of U.S. workers better. They don't get an equal share of the benefits of this free trade agreement.
Why are we rushing to approve an agreement when workers in Colombia don't even want it? Even worse, once the agreement is in effect, the U.S. loses our most important leverage to see that the human rights situation improves in Colombia. So I ask again: why the rush?
Congress should wait to see if Colombia institutes the Labor Action Plan, as they have promised. After that, we can determine if conditions for working families in Colombia actually improve. The Labor Action Plan is a good first step, but it won't fix Colombia's problems overnight.
You would hope that an international trade agreement would bring jobs with it. To give my colleagues some idea why there are problems with the Colombia FTA, the U.S. International Trade Commission doesn't predict that the Colombia FTA would create jobs. Now, the U.S. International Trade Commission always predicts very high and lofty job creation numbers for trade agreements, but even they are skeptical. That alone should be evidence for my colleagues that now is not the time for the Colombia free trade agreement.
Congress should be focused on creating jobs, and this trade agreement doesn't pass the smell test, although the Colombia FTA does stink when you consider that it is hardworking middle class families who will pay the price with this unfair trade agreement.
The Colombia FTA will kill jobs, drive down American wages, and drive small American companies that face unfair competition out of business. We can do better. I urge my colleagues to stop settling for not so bad and pursue a trade policy that means prosperity for everyone.