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Panama must adjust labor laws, US lawmaker says

Panama must adjust labor laws, US lawmaker says

Panama needs to adjust its labor laws to meet international standards before Congress will consider a free trade agreement with the Central American country, a House lawmaker in charge of U.S trade policy said Wednesday.
Rep. Sander Levin, a Democrat who chairs the Ways and Means subcommittee on trade, said certain Panamanian laws, such as one determining that a workforce of less than 40 employees has no right to form a union, "are clearly in violation of International Labor Organization laws."
Levin, in remarks prepared for a speech to the Washington International Trade Association, said Panama had expressed a willingness to address these issues. "They should now follow through with necessary changes before congressional consideration of the free trade agreement."
He said discussions are now under way about Panama's laws regarding tax havens, an issue raised by labor and consumer groups that have opposed past bilateral free trade deals.
There are three free trade agreements _ with Panama, Colombia and South Korea _ negotiated by the Bush administration but never taken up by the Democratic-controlled Congress. President Barack Obama's nominee to be U.S. trade representative, former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, said in confirmation hearings Monday that Panama was the closest to getting a congressional vote.
Levin appeared to concur in that assessment. He said Colombia "poses an expanded challenge" because of continued violence against union workers and restrictions on the right to organize. South Korea, he said, has "a long history of erecting a series of non-tariff barriers to severely limit U.S. exports of automobiles and other key industrial goods. It remains to be seen whether Korea is willing to resolve these issues."
Levin was also in step with Kirk in calling for a "new day" in trade policy with an emphasis on enforcing existing laws to ensure that U.S. trading partners are playing by the rules.
He noted that he and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a Democrat, were backing legislation that would identify "priority foreign countries" that impose technical barriers to trade and unfair sanitary measures regarding products like beef to restrict U.S. exports.


Updated : 2021-06-15 15:27 GMT+08:00