This special edition of Talking Disputes series discussed the recent arbitral panel report in the dispute In the Matter of Guatemala – Issues Relating to the Obligations Under Article 16.2.1(a) of the CAFTA-DR, which was initiated by the United States in 2010.
The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) also includes Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua as its parties.
The dispute centres on the alleged failure of Guatemala to enforce its domestic laws dealing with the protection of the right of association, protection of the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. The United States argued that those failures constituted “a sustained or recurring course of action or inaction” by Guatemala and that they were “in a manner affecting trade”, in violation of the Labour Chapter of the CAFTA-DR.
The US claims were not sustained by the panel. In particular, the panel found that majority of Guatemala’s alleged failure to enforce domestic labour legislation was not done “in a manner affecting trade.”
Following a presentation on the key findings of the panel, the experts engaged in an exchange of views on the legal and policy implications of the findings, and also discussed substantive and procedural aspects of international trade and investment law, international labour standard and FTA negotiations in the context of the dispute.