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Guatemala Gets Four More Months to Make Progress on Labor Rights Enforcement

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman announced April 24 that the U.S. is giving Guatemala an additional four months to show progress under an 18-point labor rights enforcement plan the two sides signed in 2013 to resolve the concerns raised in a DR-CAFTA labor complaint filed in 2008. The dispute settlement process will thus remain suspended until late August, although USTR states that it retains the right to reactivate those proceedings at any point during that time.

A USTR press release states that the U.S. recognizes the steps Guatemala has taken under the enforcement plan but “has not seen sufficient progress to close the [DR-CAFTA] case.” According to USTR, steps Guatemala still needs to take include passing legislation providing for an expedited process to sanction employers that violate labor laws and to implement a mechanism to ensure payments to workers in cases where enterprises have closed, and demonstrating that the legal reforms it has undertaken and still needs to undertake are being effectively implemented and leading to positive changes on the ground.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka criticized USTR’s decision, stating that “the Guatemalan government has not complied with the letter or spirit of the Enforcement Plan, and its prolonged indifference over the past six years gives no indication that four additional months will result in substantial changes on the ground.” Trumka added that this decision “undermines our confidence in the [Obama] administration’s claims that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will combat the race to the bottom in global labor standards.”

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