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USTR, DOL Hold Inaugural Labor Sub-Committee Meeting in Bahrain

September 20, 2010

MANAMA, Bahrain – Today, the United States and Bahrain convened a meeting of the Subcommittee on Labor Affairs created under the United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (agreement). Representatives at the meeting reaffirmed their commitments under the agreement to recognize and protect the rights stated in the International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The U.S. delegation was led by Dr. Timothy Wedding, Deputy Director of the Office of Trade and Labor Affairs of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, and Jason Buntin, Director for Western Europe and Middle East Affairs at the Office of the United States Trade Representative and included representatives from the Department of State and the U.S. Embassy. Dr. Majeed Al Alawi, the Minister of Labor, hosted the meeting. The Subcommittee on Labor Affairs was created under the United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement and is responsible for overseeing implementation of the agreement’s labor chapter.

The Subcommittee agreed to a series of cooperative labor activities to assist the Ministry of Labor and improve the enforcement of labor laws in Bahrain. Both parties agreed to hold more regular meetings to review progress of the labor chapter commitments. “The subcommittee meeting was extremely productive and we look forward to a long-term working relationship with the Government of Bahrain to address our shared goals for improving workers’ rights and livelihoods,” said Dr. Wedding.

The Subcommittee also held a public session with representatives of workers and employers to discuss implementation of the Labor Chapter. The representatives agreed to continue this dialogue. In addition, the U.S. delegation held a series of one-on-one meetings with stakeholders from labor unions, the private sector, and civil society and discussed a broad range of labor issues, including initiatives to improve respect for labor rights.

“We value every opportunity to interact with the public and key stakeholders on labor issues related to the trade agreement,” said Buntin. “Public sessions help us improve the implementation of the agreement’s labor provisions, and this in turn helps to spread the benefits of expanded trade as widely as possible.”