By SUNIL Sonkar
Washington, July 31 — Washington on Saturday filed a labor case against trade agreement partner Guatemala in violation of labor practices under a central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and it is the first time ever against any free-trade partner.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Friday in a speech in Pennsylvania, “Today, I am announcing that the Obama administration will file a case against Guatemala under our trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic, for apparent violations of obligations on labor rights.”
Kirk added Washington “will not tolerate labor violations that place US workers at a disadvantage”. He said further that this will deliver “a strong message” to trading partners of US to protect the labor force.
Guatemala is Latin America’s one of the poorest countries and became a Free Trade partner with United States in 2005, approved by Congress during the George W. Bush administration. It mainly exports flowers, clothing, coffee, jewelry and raw materials to US.
In 1996 full democratic government was restored in Guatemala after 20 years of civil war. According to data in 2009, Guatemala is the most deadliest country for workers after Colombia.
In April 2008, American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organisations (A.F.L.-C.I.O.) and six Guatemalan unions accused Guatemala, citing the killing of two union leaders, for the violation of labor standards.
There is a provision of dispute settlement in Dominican Republican-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR.CAFTA) and according to Kirk, Washington will ask Guatemala for consultations under this provision.