Human Flower Project
Colombian Flowers: Duty-Free Again
The new Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia went into effect yesterday. Colombian flowers are that country’s major export to the U.S. and have gobbled up the U.S. market since the early 1990s.
Sizing and sorting roses: a worker at Elite greenhouse in Facatativa, Colombia.
Interest in locally grown U.S. flowers is swelling into advocacy, “the 50-mile bouquet” gaining the moral high ground from organics (though many a producer who grows for nearby markets uses organic methods, too).
Meanwhile, the machineries of global government and big business roar ahead.
Yesterday, a shipment of 4,200 boxes filled with 1.2 million Colombian flowers arrived at Miami International Airport duty free. On May 15 the new Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, a deal 12 years in the making, went into effect, and Colombia’s first export was a cargo plane of blooms from nine megafarms.
Colombian flowers had already “enjoy[ed] preferential tariffs” in the U.S. – part of a 20-year strategy to divert Colombian growers from coca production. Augusto Solano, president of the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters, said that U.S. market now receives 76% of its exports.
But Miami Herald writer Mimi Whitefield explains that deal “lapsed last year just before Valentine’s Day and wasn’t renewed until October . In the meantime, Miami flower importers had to pay tariffs on flowers imported from Colombia and Ecuador, resulting in an extra $2.5 million a month in duties.”
Working on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin: U.S. products will now be exported to Colombia free of tariffs.
Photo: Ultimate Motorcycling
After the expiration of the old trade agreement, some pressures were brought to bear on U.S. lawmakers not to renew such preferred trading status for Colombia. U.S. flower producers were, of course, in the lead in that effort as were labor and human rights organizations, They argued that with union-busting tactics by Colombian firms and lax enforcement of health and safety regs designed to protect farm and factory workers, the U.S. government could not conscionably ease the way for these foreign flowers.
Colombian labor groups are also warned of job losses under the new pact. In particular “corn, beans, rice and soy farmers” especially smaller landholders, “feared they would not be able to compete with U.S. farmers, who receive government subsidies and generally have larger-scale and more technologically advanced production systems.”
In the end, however, with huge support from U.S. exporters who will now enjoy duty free trade in Colombia, the agreement passed and was signed into law by President Obama. According to data gathered by the U.S Trade Commission, the Free Trade agreement “is projected to increase U.S. exports to Colombia by $1.1 billion, and Colombian exports to the U.S. by $487 million.”
By the way, the first U.S. shipment under the new pact will be Harley-Davidson motorcycles.