Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Assessment needed

The NDP is rightly criticizing the Cons and Libs for voting down an NDP motion on free trade with Colombia. But the most important part of the story may not be the corporate parties' unsurprising determination to push ahead with more free trade deals, but rather the complete unwillingness of either the Cons or Libs to even see human rights issues assessed as part of Canada's analysis of trading partners:
An NDP motion from International Trade Critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) has been defeated by the combined decisions of the Liberal and Conservative parties in the Standing Committee on International Trade.

“It’s unfortunate that the Liberals and Conservatives failed to recognize and support Canada’s leadership in affirming the supremacy of human rights over any other consideration. The people of Colombia were hoping that Canada would use its influence to help them in their struggle for human rights,” said Julian.

The motion recommended that bilateral trade negotiations between Canada and Colombia be halted in light of the continuous abuse of human rights by the government of Colombia, and stressed the importance of developing a framework for a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) for future bilateral trade negotiations with Colombia and other nations.
Remember that the main justification for pushing ahead with Colombia free trade - which Harper himself has parroted - is a claim that doing so will ultimately improve human rights in the longer term. If that were the case, though, one would expect the Cons to be glad to see a thorough appraisal of those expected positive effects in order to bolster the deal.

Instead, the vote to avoid any meaningful assessment of human rights makes sense only if an actual report would likely undercut the premise that free trade will do anything to help Colombia's human rights situation.

Unfortunately, the Cons and Libs have once again demonstrated their determination to ensure that human rights issues don't get in the way of the continued spread of free trade. And that should offer just one more reason to doubt their commitment to human rights either in Canada or abroad.

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