The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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US: Improve Workers' Rights in Trade Accords


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

  • 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."

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.