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Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. 2832, Extending the Generalized System of Preference; Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3078...

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Location: Washington, DC

Providing For Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. 2832, Extending the Generalized System of Preference; Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3078, United States-Columbia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act; Providing For Consideration of H.R 2079, United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act; and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3080, United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

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Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, one of our most important responsibilities as elected officials is to promote and protect American jobs and values. When it comes to trade, jobs and values go hand-in-hand. To promote American jobs, we must promote American values. We do this by ensuring that our workers are protected from unfair competition with countries that keep wages artificially low by repressing essential democratic rights: the right to speak out, the right to organize, the right to bargain, the right for a better life without fear of reprisals.

And so as we now consider the trade agreement with Colombia, what do you get when you exercise your rights in Colombia today? You get death threats and death squad activities against you and your families. Colombia is the most dangerous place on Earth for workers who dare to exercise their rights. During the last Colombian President's 8 years in office, 570 union members were assassinated. To date, only 10 percent of the thousands of killings over the last 25 years have been resolved.

The problems here are undeniable. So I appreciate that the U.S. and the Colombia Governments have finally brought labor rights into the equation. They have agreed to a Labor Action Plan requiring Colombia to change some labor laws and to commit more resources to fight the violence and impunity.

But that plan is fatally flawed. It only demands results on paper. It does not demand real change. Colombia could have a record year for assassinations and still meet the requirements of the plan. Sure enough, real change is yet to come to Colombia. Since President Santos took office last year, press reports indicate at least 38 trade unionists have been murdered--16 since the Labor Action Plan was announced.

In mid-June of this year, I met with a Port Workers Union leader from Colombia in my office about his concerns with the free trade agreement. He told me that he was not provided protection and that the abusive cooperative system was still in place despite commitments made by the Colombian Government to remedy both. In July, I spoke directly to his concerns on the floor of the House. And 2 weeks later, this leader received death threats via text message. The message said, ``If you continue to create problems and denounce things, you will die in a mortuary union.''

It's under these conditions that we are asked to approve this deal. If we approve the deal now, any incentive for Colombia to truly improve will vanish. Now is not the time to reward violence with impunity with the seal of approval from the United States. The deal with Colombia is neither fair nor free. Telling Colombian workers that if they speak out for higher wages, they will die--that's not freedom. Telling American workers to compete with that kind of repression--that's not fair to our workers or our values.

Stand for American values, and reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

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