Colombian Bishops Offer Guidelines on Trade Talks With U.S.

Call for Rules to Guarantee Equity and Common Good

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BOGOTA, Colombia, SEPT. 14, 2004 (Zenit.org).- This country's bishops insist that U.S.-Colombian talks on a free-trade treaty need to establish rules of equity to guarantee the common good.



The Colombian episcopate published this conclusion Monday in a "Pronouncement" signed by Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz of Bogota, president of the conference.

"The Free Trade Treaty is not a simple matter and goes well beyond commercial exchange between countries," the document stated.

"It is an agreement that goes beyond commercial matters and is realized between countries with great disproportions in their development, capacities and possibilities," it said. "Because of this, we wish to insist on the need to establish rules that ensure equity in the negotiation."

"For the Church, the main criterion is the common good, which must prevail in all quests for solutions to the needs of our country, and that must overcome the levels of inequity and great differences between the rich and poor sectors," it explained.

"Processes of integration entail great dangers when they are based on a concept of mere profitability," it noted.

"This type of integration has as a consequence the increase of differences between the poor and rich, unemployment, and unjust competition. The nation's sovereignty and integrity might be seriously affected in a treaty of these characteristics," it added.

The bishops fear that the talks with the United States do not envision the reduction of barriers to the agricultural products of Colombia, a country of "agricultural vocation."

The episcopate is also concerned about health matters. "Close to 20 million Colombians do not have sufficient access to medicines, either because they do not belong to a social security system or because they cannot pay for medicines," the document says.

Thus, the bishops consider it important "to maintain the industrial property legislation in force in regard to the production of medicines," as "the production of generics is thus maintained and patents for secondary uses of medicines are prohibited."

"A national priority is to guarantee the production and supply of national medicines of good quality at a low price," they state. "Health cannot be the object of negotiations."