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CRLN Comments Submitted to the USTR Concerning Free Trade Agreement With the Republic of Colombia

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Dear USTR:

We ask that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement be withdrawn and renegotiated under a new process: one that is open and inclusive that engages labor, campesino organizations, Afro-Colombian Community Councils formed under Law 70, and organizations of indigenous peoples in Colombia.

The attached 8-page report details a personal visit to Colombia by me as CRLN program director and one of CRLN's board members, an Afro-Colombian living in Chicago in August 2007. Four sections directly address the proposed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement:

– Section 6 (page 5) entitled:
“Consult and Negotiate with the Consejos Comunitarios Rather Than Ignore Them”

– Section 7 (page 6) entitled: “New Laws of President Uribe will Gut Territorial Rights of Indigenous & Afro-Colombians”

– Section 8 (page 6) entitled: “Yes to Diverse Polyculture Organic Food Crops! No to Monoculture African Palm Oil Plantations!”

– Section 9 (page 7) entitled: “Yes to Local Community Based Mining; No to Multinational Corporation Mineral Mining”

– Section 10 (page 7) entitled: "Mega-Projects & the Pacific Rim"

– Section 11 (page 8) entitled: “We Have Our Own Development Plans. Work With Us to Implement Them.”

– Section 12 (page 8) entitled: “Yes to Trade Agreements with Community Participation! No to Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement!”

The first-hand testimonies offered in this report offer a new, inclusive framework to redesign the U.S. Colombia Trade Agreement to benefit more people – especially labor, family farmers, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous people in Colombia – while assuring a methodology that will reduce global warming instead of accelerating it (which will clearly be the case without a renegotiation).

We look forward to your reply.

Respectfully,

Gary L. Cozette
Program Director
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)