A trade agreement between the United States and Peru could be rejected in Congress because of Peru’s weak labor record and the agreement’s lack of labor provisions.
Like CAFTA (which passed by only two votes in the House), this most recent FTA only requires Peru to enforce existing labor laws. But the U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report released this month revealed that Peru has weak labor laws that fail to protect workers’ rights and restricts workers’ ability to unionize. In addition, child labor is rampant and the minimum wage fails to provide a decent standard of living.
"Including basic labor standards in the text of the FTA is the easiest, most effective way to hold countries accountable, and it’s not too late to do this," said Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., lead Democrat on the House Ways and Means Trade subcommittee.
Frank Vargo, the National Association of Manufacturers’ vice president for international economic affairs disagrees.
"There always has been, from day one, very strong insistence on the part of Democrats that — even though [fast-track] doesn’t call for it — there should be some further provisions for including trade enforcement leverage and seeing other countries comply fully with [International Labor Organization] ILO requirements," said Vargo. "But I don’t see that."
Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo actually offered to include a commitment in the FTA to comply with International Labor Organization Standards. But the U.S. rejected this offer. According to a news release issued by Cardin and Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-NY, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative refused to include ILO standards because the U.S. would have to change some of its own laws to be in compliance.