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Democrats urge labor clause in Peru FTA

Friday, April 7, 2006

Democrats urge labor clause in Peru FTA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration should include a provision in a proposed free-trade pact with Peru that the South American country meet international labor standards, a group of congressional Democrats said on Friday.

The Bush administration gave Congress 90-day notice in early January it intended to sign a bilateral free-trade deal with Peru. Thursday was the earliest the pact could be signed, but no date has been announced.

"Time is running short to develop solutions to address outstanding concerns and have the agreement approved by Congress this year. A key outstanding issue for us relates to labor standards," a group of Democrats from the House of Representatives Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.

If USTR accepted an offer by Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to put the labor standards obligation in the pact, the group said it would work with the administration on a major aid package to ensure that Peru was able to implement the agreement, particularly the labor elements.

Fifteen Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, and independent Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont signed the letter.

A spokeswoman for Portman’s office said the administration was working with the Peruvians on the timing of the signing.

"President Toledo has emphasized repeatedly that Peru has a strong labor law regime and that it has ratified the ILO (International Labor Organization) core conventions and has ILO consistent labor laws. He understands that the FTA will require Peru to enforce its labor laws and has expressed his commitment to ensure effective enforcement of those laws and to continue to strengthen worker rights compliance," said spokeswoman Neena Moorjani.

"The administration has encouraged the government of Peru to work with Congress to address members’ concerns about worker rights, as in the case of the Bahrain FTA and other FTAs. We have been successful in getting partners to address labor concerns in their countries and will continue to work with Congress and them to do so."

 source: Reuters