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Colombia to Columbus – OH Farmers, Workers Worried About Trade Deal

April 21, 2008

Columbus, OH – A proposed trade deal with Colombia is a hot topic in the presidential race. As the White House pushes for a new free trade agreement with the South American nation, however, representatives of Ohio's farmers and workers are waving the caution flag.

Roger Crossgrove of the Ohio Farmers Union says he isn't opposed to trade deals with other countries – as long as they include labor, food quality and environmental safeguards to ensure Ohio farmers a level playing field. He doesn't feel that the past free trade deals have done that.

"Ohio agriculture and businesses have not benefited by the past trade agreements that have been approved and implemented. They have not helped us financially, at all."

Tim Burga, with the Ohio AFL-CIO, agrees that trade agreements must hold companies in other nations to the same labor and environmental standards as their counterparts in the United States. In his view, it's particularly important in Colombia, where a number of trade union organizers have been murdered or threatened with violence.

"Until we get a handle on having workers have their rights expressed in Colombia without fear of retaliation or violence, we ought not be moving this deal. And certainly, Ohio cannot afford to lose any more jobs."

Supporters of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement say it will create a bigger market for American agriculture and other products. At the moment, however, the plan is deadlocked, as Congressional leaders insist it should include environmental and labor safeguards before it can be approved.

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OH