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Relating to the Consideration of H.R. 5724, United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, I will vote for this resolution that President Bush has regrettably made necessary.

The immediate effect of the resolution will be to allow deferral of a vote on the proposed free trade agreement with Colombia.

Some say that the longer-term effect will be to make approval of that agreement impossible. But I think the reality could be just the reverse, because as you have said, Mr. Speaker, at this point the odds are against its approval and so deferring the vote on the agreement could be the only way it might ever be approved.

I have supported Free Trade Agreements with Bahrain, Singapore, Chile, Morocco, Australia, Jordan, Oman, and Peru, I'd like the opportunity to consider the merits of a Columbia FTA, but cannot jump to the conclusion that its provisions are fully acceptable, and I am troubled by allegations that labor organizers have been terrorized by government authorities in Columbia. It seems to me that the proponents of this agreement have the burden of making a compelling case that the agreement meets criteria Congress has insisted upon with regard to labor protections.

Therefore, deferring the vote will allow additional time for the Bush Administration and the other supporters of the agreement either to the make the case that it should be approved in its current form or to work with the Colombian government and the Congress to make revisions to respond to objections raised by its opponents.

It should not have been necessary for the House to act to provide that time. If President Bush had been willing to do more to resolve those objections, we would not be taking such action. But by deciding to formally transmit the agreement, which set in motion the so-called ``fast track'' procedures of the current law applicable to trade agreements, the President has brought us to this point.

And while the details are different, that approach is very similar to the one the president has followed on many other matters--demanding approval of his proposals and refusing to work with Members of Congress to resolve objections or accommodate other suggestions.

We have seen the pattern over and over, from the repeated vetoes of legislation to expand the State Children's Health Program, SCHIP, to revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA, and with regard to more other matters than I have time to list.

But this time, by adopting this resolution, we can give President Bush time to reconsider that way of doing business, and give the other proponents of the Colombia trade agreement time to make the case for why it should be approved.


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