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What Free Trade Will Do For Florida & Colombia

Oct 12, 2011 | Blog

Later tonight, the Senate is scheduled to vote on free trade pacts with three countries, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Just this morning the Sun Sentinel reported that Florida could gain as many as 11,685 jobs in the next year with the possibility of more when the trade pact is signed.

Senator Rubio has been calling for the passage of these trade agreements and is looking forward to seeing them pass the Senate this evening.


Sun-Sentinel: House, Senate Set to Approve Free Trade Pact with Colombia

By William E. Gibson

October 11, 2011,0,5867225.story

The free trade pact and similar agreements with Panama and South Korea are expected to create 11,685 jobs in Florida next year

WASHINGTON — For four angry years, Alfred Lipshultz has been waiting for the day Congress approves a free-trade pact with Colombia so he can begin hiring more workers and selling more of his water-treatment systems to Latin America.

That breakthrough moment has arrived. The House and Senate are prepared to approve a pact with Colombia on Wednesday along with similar agreements with Panama and South Korea that are expected to create 11,685 jobs in Florida next year, with many more to come.

“We will try to keep these jobs in Florida,” said Lipshultz, president of Aquathin of Pompano Beach. “We’ve never outsourced anything. And the trickle-down from companies that export will definitely create more jobs in Florida.”

The pacts would reduce the cost of selling many more Florida products — from aircraft engines to bulldozers, fertilizer to electronics. By reducing tariffs on U.S. goods, the Colombia pact alone is expected to increase Florida’s exports by $345 million, plus an additional $187 million in services.

The most direct impact will affect Florida’s ports, including Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, the Port of Miami and the Port of Palm Beach. More than 55,000 Florida companies send goods overseas, and thousands more provide these companies with goods and services.

These trade deals have not sparked the usual fears of competition from abroad because most imported goods already come to this country duty-free. They have, however, roused fervent opposition from worker advocates who said they don’t protect the rights of workers in these countries.

The Florida AFL-CIO convention, meeting in Lake Buena Vista this week, rallied around a resolution condemning the pacts, and some labor activists furiously worked the phones to try to persuade lawmakers to vote against them.

“We have seen no verifiable information that the jobs they say will be created will actually occur,” said Mike Williams, president of the Florida AFL-CIO, who visited Colombia a couple of years ago to assess working conditions.

“I talked with many workers who experienced threats and intimidation because of their activity with worker rights and union organizing,” Williams said. “I talked with the children of slain labor leaders who witnessed their fathers being shot in the head in the town square.”

Because of such concerns, President Barack Obama delayed a Colombia trade deal initially negotiated by the George W. Bush administration. Pressured to create jobs at home, Obama got behind the deal last month after Colombian officials assured him they will enforce worker rights and protect union organizers.