Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) chatted this afternoon with a group of bloggers about the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Act and the House leadership’s decision to prevent an up-and-down vote on the agreement. The Senator traveled to Colombia in March, where he found a country more peaceful than in years past, growing economically, and embracing progress.
Many of his additional points will be familiar to readers of this blog: Alvaro Uribe is an impressive leader, an ally, and a man working to protect union leaders. The opportunities for U.S. exports to Colombia are impressive. And the Colombia FTA is a great deal for the United States, since Colombia already exports to the U.S. duty free under the Andean Trade Preference Act.
Corker expressed strong sentiments about the politics that have disrupted the agreement’s consideration in Congress, the unions demanding allegiance just as they did with the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check. Corker:
Let me just say bottom line, I’ve never seen anything that’s just so brazenly a genuflect, if you will, by House leadership to unions. Card check, to me, it’s hard for me to believe that people really believe in this country that card check is a good thing, where basically union leaders go out and one on one should pick people off to bring a union into existence in companies. I’ve experienced first hand some of those types of tactics. Years ago, as a young man, I was a card-carrying union member. And again, it’s hard for me to see…it’s hard for me understand the tremendous tilt that this leadership has toward the unions. But this Colombia free trade agreement is absolutely inflicting pain on the very people that are being represented.
Today, per the Andean free trade preference agreement, Colombia can ship goods into our country tariff-free, for the most part. Very few things have tariffs on them. This agreement would allow us, our employees, our companies, our workers here in America to ship goods to Colombia tariff-free.
This is solely, solely bowing to union pressure. To me it’s an embarrassment to our country. This president has been our friend; Colombia as a country has been our friend in a part of the world where we need friends, where we need people who care about democracy, who care about freedom, who care about commerce, who want to be stable contributors, if you will, to the world. He has done that, and here we are, holding him hostage, holding their country hostage, holding our workers in this country hostage to the fact that the AFL-CIO and other unions are trying to lever this to some other end. I really mean it. I have never seen anything so blatant, so blatant of nothing, if you will, of kowtowing to union officials in our country.
If the House members are allowed to vote their conscience, Corker said, he’s convinced the measure would pass by a large margin, just as it would in the Senate.
The blogger conference call is available here as an .mp3 file.
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