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In the Matter of Guatemala – Issues Relating to the Obligations Under Article 16.2.1(a) of the CAFTA-DR

The final report of the panel in this dispute is available here: http://trade.gov/industry/tas/.

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman announced on September 18, 2014, that the United States is proceeding with a labor enforcement case against Guatemala under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The United States filed its first written submission in the case on November 3, 2014. Guatemala filed its first submission on February 2, 2015. The rebuttal submission of the United States was submitted on March 16, 2015. The rebuttal submission of Guatemala was submitted on April 27, 2015. Written views by eight non-governmental entities were submitted April 27, 2015. Guatemala and the United States provided comments on the written submissions of the non-governmental entities on May 11, 2015.  A hearing took place before the arbitral panel on June 2, 2015, in Guatemala City, and was broadcast via live webstream through a link on the Guatemalan Ministry of Economy website. A recording of the complete hearing can be seen here.  The panel’s work was suspended on November 4 after the resignation of a panelist and resumed on November 27 when the panel was reconstituted with a replacement panelist.

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.  Guatemala took a number of important steps to implement the Enforcement Plan; however, critical actions agreed to under the Enforcement Plan still remain outstanding.  In addition, further steps are necessary to demonstrate that the legal reforms Guatemala has undertaken are being effectively implemented, leading to concrete improvements on the ground.

United States Proceeds with Labor Enforcement Case Against Guatemala 

To read Ambassador Michael Froman's remarks on the labor enforcement case against Guatemala, please click here.

To see what people are saying about the U.S. proceeding with the labor enforcement case against Guatemala, please click here.

The United States and Guatemala agreed on a robust enforcement plan to resolve concerns raised in a labor case brought by the United States under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The 18-point plan includes concrete actions with specific time frames that Guatemala will implement within six months to improve labor law enforcement. This is the first labor case that the United States has brought to dispute settlement under a trade agreement. Under the Enforcement Plan, which was the result of extensive engagement and resolve by both governments, Guatemala has committed to strengthen labor inspections, expedite and streamline the process of sanctioning employers and ordering remediation of labor violations, increase labor law compliance by exporting companies, improve the monitoring and enforcement of labor court orders, publish labor law enforcement information, and establish mechanisms to ensure that workers are paid what they are owed when factories close.

Fact Sheet: Guatemala Agrees to Comprehensive Labor Enforcement Plan

Mutually Agreed Enforcement Plan between the United States and Guatemala

On August 9, 2011, the United States requested the establishment of an arbitral panel under article 20.6 of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) regarding the Government of Guatemala’s apparent failure to effectively enforce its labor laws. The matter at issue is Guatemala’s failure to conform to its obligations under Article 16.2.1(a) with respect to the effective enforcement of Guatemalan labor laws related to the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. Consultations under CAFTA-DR were held in September and December of 2010 and a meeting of the Free Trade Commission was held on June 7, 2011.

USTR Kirk Announces Next Step in Labor Rights Enforcement Case against Guatemala 

Model Rules of Procedure (en espanol)

Roster of Labor Panelists

Labor Panelists’ Code of Conduct

Reaction to Enforcement:

On May 16, 2011, the United States requested a meeting of the Free Trade Commission under article 20.5.2 of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) regarding the Government of Guatemala’s apparent failure to effectively enforce its labor laws. Of concern is the Government of Guatemala’s failure to meet its obligations under the Labor Chapter of CAFTA-DR, with respect to effective enforcement of Guatemalan labor laws related to the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. The request stems from an April 2008 submission filed with the U.S. Department of Labor under the Labor Chapter of CAFTA-DR by U.S. and Guatemalan labor unions and consultations on the matter under article 16.6.1 of the CAFTA-DR that began in July 2010.

Letter from Ambassador Kirk to Guatemala requesting Free Trade Commission Meeting

USTR Kirk Seeks Enforcement of Labor Laws in Guatemala

On July 30, 2010, the United States requested consultations with Guatemala under article 16.6.1 of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), for apparent violations of obligations on labor rights. Of concern is the Government of Guatemala’s failure to meet its obligations under the Labor Chapter of CAFTA-DR, with respect to effective enforcement of Guatemalan labor laws related to the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. The consultations request stems from an April 2008 submission filed with the U.S. Department of Labor under the Labor Chapter of CAFTA-DR by U.S. and Guatemalan labor unions.

Letter from Ambassador Ron Kirk and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis requesting Consultations

USTR Kirk Announces Labor Rights Trade Enforcement Case against Guatemala

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk on Enforcement at Allegheny Technologies

Reaction to Enforcement

Department of Labor Press Release

AFL-CIO Submission
 

 

Panel Proceedings
Date Brief Description
10/10/2014 Request by Guatemala for a Preliminary Ruling (Traducción de cortesía)
11/03/2014 U.S. Initial Written Submission (Traducción de cortesía)
11/20/2014 Panel Ruling on the Procedure for Addressing Guatemala’s Request for a Preliminary Ruling (en español)
02/02/2015 Guatemala Initial Written Submission (en español)
02/09/2015 Requests to Submit Written Views Received by the Panel from NGOs (Solicitudes para Presentar Opiniones Escritas Recibidas por el Panel de Entidades No-Gubernamentales)
02/20/2015 Letter from the Panel regarding NGO Participation
02/26/2015

Panel Ruling on Request for Extension of Time to File Initial Written Submission and on the Treatment of Redacted Evidence (español)

03/16/2015 U.S. Rebuttal Submission (traducción en español)
03/19/2015 Letter from Guatemala
04/06/2015 Letter from the United States 
04/17/2015 Letter from Guatemala
04/27/2015 Rebuttal Submission of Guatemala (en español)
04/27/2015 Submissions of Non-Governmental Entities     Submissions of Non-Governmental Entities (en español)
05/11/2015 Comments by the United States on the Written Views Submitted by Non-Governmental Entities (en español)
05/11/2015 Comments by Guatemala on the Written Views Submitted by Non-Governmental Entities
06/02/2015 Opening Statement of the United States at the Hearing  
06/02/2015 Opening Statement of Guatemala at the Hearing
06/17/2015 Responses of the United States to the Questions of the Panel (en español)
06/17/2015 Supplementary Written Submission of the United States (en español)
06/17/2015 Guatemala’s Supplementary Written Submission and Replies to the Panel’s Questions 
07/01/2015 Comments of the United States on Guatemala’s Supplementary Written Submission and Replies to the Panel’s Questions (español)
07/01/2015 Comments of Guatemala to the United States’ Supplementary Written Submission and Responses to the Panel’s Questions
06/26/2017 Final Report of the Panel