President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to express my disappointment with your decision to send the implementing legislation for the Colombian Free Trade Agreement to Congress for a non-amendable vote under now-expired trade promotion authority.
As you are undoubtedly aware, it is a matter of standard procedure that the congressional committees of jurisdiction be permitted the opportunity to register concerns with legislation prior to it being filed under trade promotion authority. To sidestep this critical negotiating step by unilaterally forcing an up or down vote on a bill negotiated solely by the Administration is an abuse of trade promotion authority, and frankly justifies abandoning any effort to reestablish that privilege for the remaining months of your Administration.
Several objections that have been raised against the legislation deserve your attention, and must be addressed prior to consideration of the agreement. At the top of the list is the persistent violence waged against trade unionists in Colombia. Twelve union members have been killed this year alone, and over the past twenty years more than 2,500 have lost their lives exercising a right considered to be fundamental to America's workers.
Additionally, reauthorization of a strong trade adjustment assistance program is an essential first step that must be taken before any free trade agreement can be considered. We must ensure that American workers affected by trade have the programs and policies in place that protect them in an increasingly globalized economy.
Unless America's trade policies are built on fundamental fairness, the consensus for trade will continue to unravel. An agreement that ignores persistent violence against union members, and that is struck without a commitment in place to further protect America's workers, is an agreement that requires more work. Unfortunately, the Congress has been denied the opportunity to work directly with your Administration to address these concerns.
I regret that you have chosen to take this approach, and in the face of criticism from members of both parties, I urge you to reconsider your position so that we may work together to craft a sensible policy.
John F. Kerry