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United States-Columbia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the gentleman from Michigan's allotment of time.

I rise in strong support of the three trade agreements before us today: the Colombia agreement, Panama, as well as South Korea. Let me explain why.

For too long, I feel the United States has been standing on the sidelines while other countries have been moving on without us in opening up market share and establishing bilateral/multilateral agreements with them.

In the specific case of Colombia, because of our inability to be able to come together and pass a trade agreement, in the last year alone we've lost close to 50 percent market share with agricultural products that we would normally be exporting in the Colombian market. Being from the State of Wisconsin, obviously the agriculture sector is immensely important; and the longer we delay in passing these measures, the more we're going to be precluded from the market.

Also Mr. Speaker, I rise and share the concern of so many of my colleagues today in regard to labor rights in Colombia, but I think the Colombia of today is not the Colombia of 10 years ago or even of 5 years ago.

And much to the credit of the ranking member on Ways and Means, Mr. Levin, who worked tirelessly to make sure that we had a Labor Action Plan to work with Colombia to improve labor rights and protections, he thinks it should be a part of the body of the agreement. I think it's being implemented as we speak now, and it's not necessary, but the Santos administration realizes it's in their best interest to do more to enhance labor rights and protections in Colombia. I think a large part of the credit deserves to be given to the gentleman seated next to me here today, Mr. Levin.

We're just 4 percent of the world's population. Of course we've got to have a proactive trade agenda. The question is whether we're going to be a member of a rules-based trading system or not, because we are going to be trading with these countries one way or the other. These trade agreements now have core international labor and environmental standards in the bulk of the agreement, fully enforceable with every other provision.

That is an attempt to elevate standards upwards rather than seeing this race to the bottom that so many of my colleagues are concerned about. That's the question I think that's before us today involving Colombia, Panama, and the larger market, South Korea, is whether we're going to move forward on trade agreements that have been much improved with the current administration, having inherited from the last, or whether we will continue to move forward without any rules with those countries. They already have virtual unlimited access to our market but we face restrictions to theirs. These trade agreements will fix that.

I would urge my colleagues to support all three trade agreements.

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