Congressman Rivera made the following opening statement at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled "Job Creation Made Easy: The Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free Trade Agreements" on Friday:
"Colombia and Panama are two of the United States' largest trading partners. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 9,000 American companies trade with Colombia, most of which are small businesses, and many of which employ many of my constituents in South Florida. While 90 percent of Colombian goods enter the U.S. duty free, American companies still pay tariffs for U.S. goods to enter Colombia.
"The Colombia Free Trade Agreement would eliminate obstacles and immediately boost U.S. exports to Colombia. By passing a free trade agreement with Colombia, U.S. GDP would increase by roughly $2.5 billion and exports by over a billion dollars, creating thousands of jobs in the United States.
"Labor abuses have been a major concern in advancing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. When I met with labor leaders in Colombia a few months ago, they assured me that the Colombian government, under the leadership of former President Uribe and current President Santos, has dramatically reformed labor laws to allow for more protection of union leaders and for better wages for workers. Yet, pressured by labor leaders in our country, the free trade agreements continue to be stalled by the Obama Administration.
"While the Obama Administration continues to figure things out or, worse yet, throw up road blocks to free trade, the European Union and Canada have both finalized trade deals with Colombia and Panama. The Chinese are also close to a trade agreement with Colombia. Over the last five years, China has tripled their business with Colombia while we have lost a 20 percent market share.
"In Congress, both Democrats and Republicans are united and ready to approve these two free trade agreements. While our economy continues to struggle and unemployment remains high, it is time to end the political games with American labor and special interests and give our economy a boost."