U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) issued the following statement Wednesday night following the Senate's votes on trade agreements with the Republic of Korea, Panama, and Colombia:
"Tonight, the Senate came together across party lines to support trade agreements that will improve America's competitiveness and extend our reach in the global economy. I weighed each of the three trade agreements individually, considering a range of factors beyond simply the size of the market opportunity for Delaware companies and manufacturers. Protections for labor rights, respect for the environment, and defense of U.S. intellectual property rights were a substantial part of my deliberations. That's why I voted today in support of two trade agreements that hold promise for American jobs without compromising essential American values.
"Free and fair trade with the Republic of Korea means jobs in Delaware as more businesses join the hundreds of Delaware companies already exporting their products to the growing Korean marketplace. Harim's recent investment in Delaware's poultry industry demonstrates the benefits to be gained by improving our trade relations with Korea, and today's move to lower some of the barriers to trade there will take it a step further. Similarly, the agreement with Panama is a good opportunity for American businesses in another growing market. Panama has taken significant steps in the last few years to strengthen the rights of workers and its transparency on tax matters. Both of these agreements will help Delaware and that's why I voted for them tonight.
"However, I had serious reservations about entering into a trade agreement with Colombia, the most dangerous country in the world in which to work as a trade unionist. Free trade with Colombia in the current environment does not mean fair trade for American workers, and I urge the Colombian government to address its pressing human rights issues by pursuing and prosecuting criminals who choose violence as a means of negotiating with trade unions.
"None of these agreements, however, will be worth the paper they're written on if we don't follow up with adequate enforcement. Free trade can never be fair trade without robust enforcement that includes strong protections for American intellectual property and a continued commitment to labor rights for all."