Lawmakers Praise USTR’s CAFTA-DR Enforcement Action

Aug 10, 2011 Issues: Global Trade

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Mike Michaud (ME-02), Chairman of the House Trade Working Group, joined with Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (CA-39) to praise the recent trade enforcement action undertaken by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) regarding Guatemala’s failure to enforce its labor laws. The USTR is requesting the establishment of an arbitral panel under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). This is the first labor case the United States has ever brought under a trade agreement.  

“I applaud USTR’s action. The enforcement of labor provisions in our free trade agreements is critical to making sure American jobs don’t get shipped overseas,” said Michaud. “But the fact that this is the first enforcement action of its kind speaks to the work that still needs to be done to ensure our trade agreements don’t overlook the violation of international worker rights. This case with Guatemala underscores the need for our agreements to have clearly defined labor standards and a workable dispute settlement mechanism that leads to their timely enforcement. This particular dispute settlement has taken too long.”

“I commend the USTR for holding Guatemala accountable for failing to keep its promises under CAFTA,” said Congresswoman Sánchez. “The U.S. is long overdue in enforcing labor laws our trade partners have agreed to uphold. These labor laws are crucial in places like Guatemala that have a history of serious anti-labor violence. The USTR’s action reinforces the need to include stronger worker protections in our trade agreements. If we don’t ensure that our trade partners are protecting workers from exploitation, we’ll see even more American jobs shipped overseas. American workers can’t compete for jobs with nations with weaker labor standards, because there is no fair competition.”

The AFL-CIO in April 2008 filed a public submission alleging Guatemala’s government had failed to enforce its domestic labor laws and was not in compliance with the CAFTA-DR labor provisions. The U.S. Department of Labor issued a report confirming this was the case, leading the U.S. Trade Representative to launch labor consultations with Guatemala and creating the possibility for addressing the case through dispute settlement.

Reps. Michaud, Sánchez, and 38 of their congressional colleagues wrote to Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colóm Caballeros in July 2009 urging him to live up to the CAFTA-DR agreement by taking all possible action to address the continued exploitation of Guatemalan workers.