Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harper to discuss free trade deal with Colombia

This article does not mention that the US free trade deal with Colombia is being held up by congress due to concern with human rights issues in Colombia among other things:

Mr Bush asked Congress to consider the implications of the deal with Colombia and two pending pacts with Peru and Panama.

"It is very important for this nation to stand with democracies that protect human rights and human dignity, democracies based upon the rule of law.

"So the free trade agreement with Colombia, Peru and Panama - these agreements are more than just trade votes."

So countries such as Colombia with wretched human rights record and rampant vigilante justice involving the first family it seems are the sorts of democracies that are to be fostered in South America. The entire article is at BBC.

Harper uses the same garbage democracy rhetoric as Bush. The US has promoted democracy in South and Central America through the likes of Pinochet and Somoza, and Papa Doc in Haiti. When the US does not like a government they democratically invade as in Panama, or Grenada, or by proxy as in the Bay of Pigs.
Harper of course does not visit Venezuela or Bolivia or even Brazil. He follows in the footsteps of Bush in Colombia and Peru.

Harper, Colombian leader to discuss free trade deal
Human rights groups pressing for talks on humanitarian issues
Last Updated: Sunday, July 15, 2007 | 5:39 PM ET
CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to focus on trade relations as he begins a six-day trip to South America and the Caribbean on Sunday.

His first stop is Colombia, a country with a bustling economy and a government mired in a scandal being closely watched by human rights groups.

Colombia's Supreme Court recently began investigating President Alvaro Uribe's cousin and two senators over alleged ties to the country's right-wing paramilitary groups.

The Harper government recently announced its intention to start negotiating a free trade deal with Colombia. Talks have yet to start, but senior government officials say the topic will likely come up for discussion on Monday when Harper meets with Uribe.

Currently, $500 million worth of goods and services flow each way between Canada and Colombia annually, William Dymond, senior executive fellow at Carleton University's Centre for Trade Policy and Law, told CBC News.

The talks are a good idea, he said, adding that it's important for Canada to establish a free trade agreement with Colombia so that it doesn't lose some key markets, such as agriculture, to the United States, which has already signed a trade deal with the South American country.

"Trade agreements are not about today's trade," Dymond said. "They're about tomorrow's trade."

Furthermore, Canada would benefit if a free trade agreement could open new markets for its financial services, mining and engineering sectors, Dymond said.

If there's political backing for it, a trade deal would take eight to 12 months to negotiate, he added.

While in Bogota, Harper is also scheduled to tour a Canadian-funded rehabilitation centre that helps victims of the landmines that litter the country after years of civil war.

Starting Tuesday, he'll spend two days in Santiago, where he will mark the 10th anniversary of the Canada-Chile free trade agreement and meet with President Michelle Bachelet.

Next on the itinerary is Barbados, where Harper will meet with Prime Minister Owen Arthur and other Caribbean leaders.

Harper will end his whirlwind tour on July 20 as he makes a brief stop in Haiti for a chat with President Rene Préval before returning to Ottawa.

In a news conference last Wednesday, human rights and labour groups released an open letter to Harper asking him to raise a number of humanitarian issues when he meets with the leaders of Colombia and Haiti.

"We're asking the prime minister to put human rights first … to make it clear that trade does not trump human rights," Kathy Price of Amnesty International told CBC Newsworld on Sunday.

In a news release earlier this month announcing the tour, Harper's office said: "Through this enhanced engagement, Canada could achieve real progress on key issues such as security, democratic governance and economic prosperity."

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