On January 11, 2006, the United States signed into law the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which entered into force between the United States and Bahrain on August 1, 2006. In light of the ongoing brutal repression of peaceful protest carried out by the police and armed forces of Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (the latter at the invitation of former), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) urgently calls on the United States government (USG) to serve notice of its withdrawal from the FTA upon the government of Bahrain (GoB), pursuant to Article 18.104.22.168 The U.S. simply should not provide preferential trade treatment to a country that has and continues to engage in well-documented widespread and serious violations of human rights, including labor rights, of its citizens and residents.
In the interim, the USG must immediately enter into consultations with the GoB under Article 15.6 of the FTA and insist that it end its ongoing campaign to punish trade union activity and to cease all forms of discrimination against trade unions and union activists. To date, several trade union leaders have been arbitrarily detained and investigated, and hundreds of rank and file union members and workers have been fired for participating in strikes and pro-democracy demonstrations. Indeed, a recent high-level delegation by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) warned that “the government has clearly decided to try and destroy [the trade unions],” which “have been at the forefront of the movement for dialogue, peace and reconciliation.”2 Failure to intervene now to support workers and their democratic institutions would make a mockery of the labor protections included in the FTA.
If these consultations (and any other engagement) result in a satisfactory resolution of the human and labor rights issues described herein within the six month notice period, we would withdraw our request for withdrawal from the FTA.
This submission is filed with the Office of Trade and Labor Affairs of the U.S. Department of Labor (OTLA) in accordance with the procedures set forth at 71 Fed. Reg. 76691, Section F. The submission sets forth several serious and repeated examples where the GoB has failed to “respect, promote and realize” core workers’ rights, as outlined in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.3 Each of these acts occurred after the FTA entered into force.
1 Article 21.5.2 provides “Either Party may terminate this Agreement on 180-days written notice to the other Party.”
2 See, ITUC Bahrain: Urgent ITUC Mission Warns of Slide into Dictatorship, April l8, 2011, available online at http://www.ituc-csi.org/bahrain-urgent-ituc-mission-warns.html.
3 The GoB has also failed to “strive to ensure that such labor principles and the internationally recognized labor rights set forth in Article 15.7 are recognized and protected by its law.” The AFL-CIO intends to raise these issues once the more immediate concerns are fully addressed and resolved.
Cf. James Parks, “Global Union Movement Calls for End to Repression in Bahrain” (AFL-CIO Now Blog, 21 April 2011).