WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) 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.
“It’s critical that the US 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.”
The United States has engaged extensively with Guatemala in an effort to improve labor law enforcement. This engagement led to the signing of a groundbreaking Enforcement Plan between the United States and Guatemala in April 2013. Over the course of the last seventeen months, the United States has worked closely with Guatemala to monitor implementation of the Enforcement Plan.
Guatemala took a number of important steps to implement the Enforcement Plan. And Ambassador Froman travelled to Guatemala in July 2014 to urge the government to follow through with the remaining steps. There is still room for the United States and Guatemala to work together to resolve the concerns. Even this week, efforts are underway in Guatemala to make progress on key concerns, including on legislation to sanction employers that violate labor laws. The United States will continue to work closely with Guatemala on those efforts and hopes to make further progress on that front and on other critical actions agreed to under the Enforcement Plan. That will include further steps to demonstrate that the legal reforms Guatemala has undertaken are being effectively implemented, leading to concrete improvements on the ground.
Brown joined Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) thanking USTR Michael Froman for moving forward with the case, and emphasized that strong enforcement of labor provisions and trade agreements is nonnegotiable.
Last month Wyden, Cardin and Brown called on USTR to resume its case against Guatemala if Guatemala failed to live up to its commitments. Earlier this week, Brown met with USTR Froman to thank him for his work and discuss ongoing efforts to level the playing field for Ohio workers.