SOURCE: USCIB

April 16, 2008 10:48 ET

Industry Group Urges Congress to Unfreeze Colombia Trade Agreement, Citing Clear Progress on Labor Rights

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - April 16, 2008) - The group that represents American business in the International Labor Organization voiced dismay at efforts in Congress to delay a vote on the U.S-Colombia trade agreement, noting the Colombian government's clear progress on improving labor rights in the country.

The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) called on Congressional leaders to "show leadership" and approve the trade pact, pointing out that a recent ILO report (http://www.uscib.org/docs/ilo_colombia_report.pdf) found considerable progress in Colombian government efforts to protect trade unionists.

"We are dismayed and profoundly disappointed at efforts to block or delay consideration of the Colombia trade agreement," said USCIB President Peter M. Robinson. "Not only does it needlessly stall implementation of an important market-opening bilateral agreement, it sends the wrong message to our trading partners around the world and our allies in the hemisphere, at precisely the wrong time."

Under President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia is making key strides in reducing violence against trade unionists and in improving labor rights in general, with murders of labor activists falling sharply, from 196 the year he took office to 26 last year. Progress has also been documented by the ILO.

In March, following a high-level mission to Colombia, the ILO stated that "significant" progress had been made to protect labor rights in the country. ILO experts met with some 90 officials from the Colombian government, trade unions and business groups, and cited numerous areas of progress.

"The ILO's report confirms progress on labor issues, and other reports indicate a strong reduction in labor-related violence," observed USCIB's Mr. Robinson. "It is difficult to see how further delay of the trade agreement would produce better results, while it does risk undercutting the framework that has enabled this progress."

"It is time for Congress to show leadership and responsibility," he said. "We urge leaders to unfreeze the Colombia trade agreement and swiftly bring it to a vote."

USCIB promotes an open system of global commerce. Its membership includes some 300 leading U.S. companies, professional services firms and associations. It is the U.S. affiliate of the International Organization of Employers, which serves as the official voice of business in the International Labor Organization. More information is available at www.uscib.org.

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