U.S. State Legislators Slam Colombia FTA - Again

National Conference of State Legislatures Votes Down Resolution Supporting Colombia FTA Second Time in Three Months

NEW ORLEANS - The sound rejection by U.S. state legislators of a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to approve the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) reinforces widespread opposition to the proposed NAFTA expansion even as President Bush reiterated his call for a vote on the deal, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division said.

The pro-Colombia FTA resolution, introduced by two legislators from Florida and Kansas, failed to garner enough support even to warrant a roll call, and was trounced late Wednesday in the Labor and Economic Development Committee by an overwhelming voice vote at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in New Orleans. The resolution was a watered-down version of a similar resolution that the NCSL rejected by a 2-to-1 margin just three months ago.

Trade issues increasingly concern state legislators as international trade agreements delve deeply into matters of state law. Pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization's General Agreement on Trade in Services contain numerous policy obligations and constraints to which U.S. federal, state and local governments are bound to conform their domestic policies.

"That a bipartisan organization representing state legislatures so resoundingly rejects the Colombia FTA sends a loud signal that most Americans do not want to be connected with either an expansion of NAFTA or the Colombian government's record of horrible human rights atrocities," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division.

The Colombia FTA includes the most damaging provisions of NAFTA and the Central America Free Trade Agreement, about which state legislators have become vocal. The provisions include extraordinary foreign investor protections that promote off-shoring of U.S. jobs and expose domestic health and environmental laws to attack in foreign tribunals. These tribunals may award money damages to corporations challenging state laws in foreign tribunals. The NCSL previously has adopted resolutions opposing inclusion of such provisions in trade agreements.