Congress yesterday approved three free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, with supporters touting U.S. job creation and opponents arguing the measures will cause American job losses and pointing out the persistent anti-union violence in Colombia.
Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio both voted in favor of the trade agreements. Florida Democrats in the House of Representatives were split, with Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch voting against the agreements and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kathy Castor voting to support the approval of the agreements. Florida GOP House members voted to approve the trade agreements.
Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement issued Wednesday that “free trade with Panama and Colombia will benefit Florida’s economy and businesses for years to come. By eliminating the need to pay tariffs in order to export Florida goods and products to those expanding economies, Florida companies will now be able to invest their money in creating jobs.”
Marco Rubio said in a video statement he is “very encouraged by the fact that we finally passed the free trade agreement,” adding that the agreements “will have huge positive benefits for Florida especially the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama will create thousands of jobs in Florida”:
The Miami Herald reports today that ”the Florida Chamber of Commerce says the agreements will create more than 20,000 new jobs and generate more than $1.5 billion in international trade opportunities.”
The Herald adds: “Not only will Florida products, such as citrus and beef, become more competitive but the state will potentially benefit from an increase in the billions of dollars worth of imports and exports that move to the three markets through Florida ports and airports.”
Opponents continue to point to potential American job losses and violence against Colombian union members, which has claimed 2,908 lives over the last 25 years. Since August 2010, when current President Juan Manuel Santos took office, at least 40 union members have been killed — 22 this year and 16 of those murders after April, when a Labor Action Plan to deal with this violence was included in the trade agreement.
In a column explaining why he opposed the trade agreements, Deutch wrote, “In the midst of unprecedented long-term unemployment, I cannot support trade agreements that repeat the mistakes of previous trade deals that shipped millions of American jobs overseas and exploded our national trade deficit.”
Deutch added: “These proposed pacts will only escalate the global race for cheap labor in nations with poor human rights records. The Colombia deal will increase the availability of cheap labor with historically poor worker protections.”