The Obama administration on Monday requested a meeting of the Free Trade Commission under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) regarding Guatemala’s failure to enforce its labor laws.
“While Guatemala has taken some positive steps over the past several months, its actions and proposals have been insufficient to address what we view as systemic failures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, in a statement.
“We will hold our trading partners accountable in order to maintain the fairness that creates a level-playing field upon which American workers can compete and win,” he added. “We expect to see the government of Guatemala take concrete actions to improve its labor law enforcement to protect the rights of workers as agreed under CAFTA-DR.”
The United States formally launched this case with its request for consultations in July 2010. This is the first labor case ever brought by the United States against a trade agreement partner. The request for a commission meeting takes the case to the next step in the dispute settlement process.
The case involves the apparent failure by Guatemala to meet obligations to its workers under CAFTA-DR to enforce Guatemalan labor laws regarding the right of association, the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable working conditions.
A meeting of the commission provides Guatemala with another opportunity and additional incentive to resolve U.S. concerns regarding the apparent failure to enforce labor laws. If those concerns are not resolved, the United States could proceed to dispute settlement under Chapter 20 of the CAFTA-DR.