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Mr. FARR. I thank the chairman for yielding.
I rise in support of this agreement. Look, Colombia is a very important country to us. It has a lot of problems, but it has incredible potential. Colombia is a big country. It's the 20th-largest trade partner with the United States. It's our best ally in Latin America. It was the oldest democracy in Latin America, the first country to accept Peace Corps. It allowed an Air Force base to be built in Colombia. Other countries haven't allowed that. They fought alongside of us and are now fighting alongside of us in Afghanistan. They help us with Mexico drug cartels by teaching the Mexican national police and military how to handle those cartels.
It's the first country to adopt a labor action plan. And let me speak to that. That labor action plan was adopted this year on April 11. You're going to hear a lot of complaints--well, it hasn't moved fast. It's only been in effect 6 months. It's already been able to organize the grocers into unions and other big industries into unions. It's the strongest labor plan ever adopted in the history of the United States trade agreements. And that's not my opinion; that's the opinion of the Secretary of Labor of this country. It's the opinion of the Congressional Research Office.
And, frankly, a lot of people say, oh, this is another NAFTA. No. No. No. It's not NAFTA. NAFTA didn't have the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work and the follow-up provisions. This is the Peru free trade agreement which we passed. It has that right here under article 17, and this is the Colombian free trade agreement. They are exactly the same. The principles are the same. Number 2 reads, effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining--effective recognition. That means that anything that stops that can be brought under this agreement, an action against the country.
So, look, you'll hear arguments today that it will create a loss of jobs. There's going to be a loss of jobs if we don't do this. Do you know that we have made a free trade agreement with every single country in Latin America except Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador? Every one of them, none of them with these labor protections. These will be the strongest. But if we don't lift those trade barriers, all the products that we send to Colombia have a tariff on them. All those other countries, they don't. All of the European countries that are entering into a free trade agreement with Colombia don't have it. Canada doesn't have it. So guess what? We're going to lose the jobs of people who make things here and send them there because it's going to be too expensive to buy them in Colombia. So we don't want to lose those jobs. We want to grow those jobs. And there's a great market in Colombia to do that.
They say union workers are not protected, and they're not allowed to organize. That's not true. In fact, the only country that counts the crimes against labor unions is Colombia. It's the only country that has set up a ministry just to handle those crimes. And some say, oh, they haven't prosecuted enough. Some of those crimes were committed in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, it's old, old hard evidence. It's hard to figure out who did it. But they have people assigned to it, they have investigators, they have judges, and they have prosecutors. They've worked those out with the Colombian labor unions as to what crimes do you want us to go after first? They're working with the unions. A lot of unions are in support of this free trade agreement because of the labor standards that we've required them to adopt.
So I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the provisions in this Colombian free trade agreement are the strongest labor provisions in any U.S. free trade agreement.
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Mr. FARR. If we're going to encourage progress--we're investing a lot of money in Colombia, we have Peace Corps volunteers in Colombia--if we're going to encourage growth of U.S. industries and markets in South America, and if we're going to really deal with the culture of poverty, then we have to encourage a strong future for both countries. And the only way to do that is to assure the adoption of this agreement.
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