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For U.S. Congressman Mike Michaud (D Maine) it was a no-brainer: Canada should not sign a free trade agreement with Colombia until the South American country “cleans up its act” regarding human rights abuses.

“You don’t need a trade deal to clean up the corruption and end the human rights violations,” Michaud told a meeting of members of Parliament, non-government organizations, journalists and trade unionists today (Feb. 5, 2008).

Michaud told the meeting, organized by the Canadian Labour Congress, that he had met with all three Opposition parties and they shared his concern about the situation in Colombia.

“A trade deal between Canada and Colombia would make the human and labour rights situation worse,” Michaud said, adding that the Colombian government would feel no pressure to address human and labour rights abuses if it had a deal.

Canada’s sign-off is what Bush needs to argue that it is okay to cut a similar deal, Michaud explained, because Canada has a reputation as a leader in defending human rights.

“If Canada signs a deal, it gives George Bush the impetus to fast-track a deal with the United States,” he said. “We need to be vigilant about human rights in Colombia and we need Canada to continue being a leader.”

Much of what Michaud told the group was also stated in a letter to Parliament dated Jan. 15 in which Michaud and six other American congressmen and women urged the Canadian government to halt signing a deal.

Michaud’s web site  says he is the first recognized Franco-American from Maine to be elected to federal office. http://michaud.house.gov/ 

To read Hill Times coverge of the event, go to http://www.embassymag.ca/. To see a video of Michaud’s comments, go to http://canadianlabour.ca/video/michaud_colombia.wmv