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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

ILAB News Release: [05/11/2011]
Contact Name: Gloria Della
Phone Number: (202) 693-8666
Release Number: 11-0699-NAT

Deputy Undersecretary of Labor Sandra Polaski testifies before Senate Finance Committee on US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, related issues

WASHINGTON — Sandra Polaski, deputy undersecretary of labor for international affairs, today testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance to discuss labor rights and conditions in Colombia, the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement's labor provisions and the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights.

"President Obama is committed to pursuing an ambitious trade agenda that will help grow our economy and support good jobs for American workers by opening new markets. An essential component of this agenda is ensuring that our trading partners respect fundamental labor rights so that U.S. businesses and workers compete on a level playing field," said Polaski.

Polaski told the committee that the action plan outlines an ambitious set of specific, concrete steps to address outstanding labor issues. Under the plan, the Colombian government is expanding its protection program to prevent violence against unionists, increasing resources to prosecute the perpetrators of violence, and strengthening labor laws and enforcement to better protect workers' rights.

Under the labor provisions of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, both countries have committed to adopt and maintain laws and practices that protect fundamental worker rights, and to submit to legal proceedings if they fail to meet those commitments. Violations of the protections for workers' rights can result in fines and trade sanctions.

Polaski urged Congress to reauthorize the 2009 Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act to help the tens of thousands of workers impacted by trade obtain job training, placement assistance and income support so they can succeed in a tough job market. The act strengthened the Trade Adjustment Assistance program for workers by extending coverage to those in the service sector and expanding workers' opportunities to receive job training and other services. Polaski also urged Congress to reauthorize the Generalized System of Preferences and the Andean Trade Preference Act — two programs that enjoy broad bipartisan support and are important, time-tested tools for promoting economic growth in the developing world.

For a copy of Polaski's testimony, visit http://www.dol.gov/ilab. A copy of the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights is available at http://www.ustr.gov/webfm_send/2787.