WASHINGTON – Three leading Democratic senators praised the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for resuming its case against Guatemala, which has failed to enforce its own labor laws for years in violation of commitments under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown thanked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman for moving forward with the case, and emphasized that strong enforcement of labor provisions and trade agreements is nonnegotiable.
“International trade is good for America, but it must be based on international standards that protect workers, both at home and with our trading partners. I applaud the administration for holding Guatemala accountable to its current commitments under CAFTA. Guatemala’s workers are suffering because their country is not upholding its own laws. Trade must not reduce us all to the lowest common-denominator,” said Cardin.
“This moment is long in coming. Guatemala has failed to enforce its labor laws again and again, and its workers continue to suffer as a result. Our trading partners cannot turn a blind eye to their trade obligations, including those that are in place to protect workers,” Wyden said. “Labor rights are a pillar of our nation’s trade policy, which makes today’s action so important. Both USTR and the Department of Labor have put hundreds of hours into developing the facts of this case, and on top of that, put hundreds more into trying to resolve this matter with Guatemala. One thing is clear: to have a strong enforcement record, you cannot enforce some of the rules some of the time. All of the rules must be enforced all of the time. That includes labor and environmental commitments.”
“It’s critical that the U.S. holds Guatemala accountable on its trade commitments and this action is an important first step,” Brown said. “For too long, Guatemala has failed to uphold and enforce its labor laws – endangering workers and misleading businesses and trade partners. I’m glad to see USTR restart litigation and look forward to a result that provides justice for Guatemalan workers and lives up to the agreements required by CAFTA.”
Last month Cardin, Wyden and Brown called on USTR to resume its case against Guatemala if Guatemala failed to live up to its commitments.
Read USTR’s announcement about the Guatemala labor case here.