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Human Rights Watch Press release
(Washington, DC, October 22, 2008) – Labor provisions in US free trade accords are weak and are not effectively enforced, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Major reforms are needed.
The 36-page report, “A Way Forward for Workers’ Rights in US Free Trade Accords”, provides a roadmap for a new US administration to strengthen the requirements for workers’ rights in these agreements and to improve their enforcement.
“The US approach to labor rights in its free trade agreements, beginning with NAFTA, has failed,” said Carol Pier, senior researcher on labor rights and trade at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to make dramatic changes in its strategy.”
The Human Rights Watch report outlines in detail elements needed to effectively guarantee labor rights, including recommendations that US free trade agreements:
- Unambiguously require all parties to uphold core labor rights in their domestic laws;
- Require all parties to effectively enforce their labor laws in all cases involving trade or investment between the parties;
- Penalize corporations implicated in labor abuses; and
- Depoliticize enforcement mechanisms by significantly reducing state discretion throughout the labor complaint and dispute settlement processes.
- The report also includes specific proposals for a new US administration to make compliance with trade accords’ labor requirements a priority, including to:
- Raise the subject of labor rights from the beginning of free trade talks and require that potential US trading partners remedy deficiencies before negotiations conclude;
- Create and finance mechanisms to assist private parties seeking to file labor complaints and to make local groups in US trading partners aware that the mechanisms exist; and
- Actively monitor agreements’ labor requirements, including by conducting on-site inspections in countries that are US trading partners.
- US politicians have told workers for years that respect for their rights and open markets go hand in hand,” said Pier. “Only bold changes can make this promise a reality.”