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U.S. and Sri Lanka Launch New Mechanism for Discussion of Labor Issues

07/18/2012

Washington, D.C. – Today the United States and Sri Lanka held the first meeting of the recently formed Labor Affairs Committee under the U.S.-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for South and Central Asia Michael Delaney, along with staff from the U.S. Departments of Labor and State, hosted a video conference with counterparts from the Sri Lankan government, who participated from Colombo, Sri Lanka. The establishment of the new committee was one of the outcomes of the recently closed Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) worker rights review (see Press Releases 6/29/2012). The two governments discussed opportunities to continue their cooperation on labor issues, including efforts to ensure that workers are able to exercise their right to form and participate in unions of their choosing.

Following the meeting, Assistant USTR Delaney noted that, “The meeting provided an opportunity to build on the progress that led to the recent closure of the GSP worker rights review and to begin efforts to tackle longer term challenges. Our discussions were based on a common recognition that ensuring the protection of international labor rights is good for both workers and for economic development.”

Background

The U.S.-Sri Lanka TIFA, signed in 2002, has been the primary forum for bilateral trade and investment discussions between the two countries. At the 10th meeting of the U.S.-Sri Lanka TIFA in March 2012, the governments decided to form a new Labor Affairs Committee under the TIFA.

Sri Lanka is a beneficiary of the GSP trade preference program. In 2010, the U.S. Government launched a review of worker rights in Sri Lanka, based on a petition submitted by the AFL-CIO. On June 29, 2012, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the closure of that review without change to Sri Lanka’s GSP benefits based on steps taken by the Sri Lankan government to improve workers’ rights.