Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Senior Member of the Finance Committee and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, today pushed for approval of a key trade agreement between the United States and Colombia at a Finance Committee hearing entitled "The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement."
In April, Kerry and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) coauthored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging Congress for bipartisan support to approve the treaty they argued would advance our economic and strategic global interests.
"We need to restore a broadly shared bipartisan consensus on trade," Kerry and Baucus wrote. "We cannot do that if we do not treat our friends in the hemisphere with the respect they deserve as neighbors and allies, or if we ignore the needs of American workers adjusting to an increasingly globalized economy."
The full text of the Senator's statement for the record is below:
As General Hill has testified, Colombia has come back from the brink of becoming a failed state in the 1980s and 1990s to this important point today as a strong, stable democracy and dependable ally. Having been involved on both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Banking Committee in the 1980's and 1990's in the work to address the toxic brew of the flow of drugs, money, and contraband through the region, I am especially appreciative of that transformation and I respect the difficult work done and the risks taken by Colombia's government and its people to make a change.
In the past, I have not been prepared to support this proposed trade agreement because I did not feel we had yet made sufficient progress on labor rights and human rights. I believe we've reached a different point today where it appears as though those concerns are being taken seriously. I believe the Obama Administration deserves credit for patient and hardnosed negotiation that made this new breakthrough possible. And the Santos Administration deserves credit for recognizing where change is necessary. Together, they have constructed a realistic, achievable, and substantive action plan to address the bedrock concerns I and others have had. That joint work, combined with the benefits this agreement holds for jobs in America, have led me to conclude that it is time to approve this trade agreement and move forward together.
I know some of our friends are still withholding their support. And skepticism is healthy. But while there are still critical reforms we need to see made and that Colombia has agreed to implement before and after our vote here in Congress, I believe that we are on the right path. And once this agreement is ratified it is incumbent upon all of us to remain vigilant in seeing that good faith is matched by good and constructive actions. It is time to trust -- and verify.
Faithfully executed, the Action Plan and this trade agreement will advance labor and human rights more than any trade agreement Colombia has signed with any other country. It creates vital institutions and forums, and establishes procedures that will allow for continued progress. Because of these steps, and because of the benefits for our exporters and the American jobs they sustain, I believe we should embrace this agreement on a strong bicameral, bipartisan basis.