WASHINGTON – On December 12, the United States and the Philippines held the first meeting of a Labor Working Group under the U.S - Philippines Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which was established by President Biden and President Marcos in May 2023. The meeting was led by Josh Kagan, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Labor Affairs and Benedicto Ernesto R. Bitonio, Jr., Undersecretary for Labor Relations, Policy and International Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs, Thea Lee, and the U.S. Department of State’s Special Representative for International Labor Affairs, Kelly Fay Rodríguez, also participated in the launch of the Labor Working Group. U.S. officials encouraged increased concrete actions and bilateral engagement to protect union organizers against violence and harassment, promote workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and facilitate dialogue among U.S. and Philippine governments, worker organizations, and employer organizations to inform the objectives of the Labor Working Group.
The Labor Working Group will continue to meet in 2024 in support of our broader TIFA agenda and aim to reconvene in the first half of the new year.