In the News

Pacific trade negotiators face high-wire act in Hawaii


Pacific Rim officials meet in Hawaii this week for talks that could make or break an ambitious trade deal which aims to boost growth and set common standards across a dozen economies ranging from the United States to Brunei. 

Trade ministers go into the talks, which run from July 28 to 31 on the island of Maui, with high hopes of a pact to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the most sweeping trade deal in a generation and a legacy-defining achievement for U.S. President Barack Obama.... 

Peruvian unions, however, recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, saying their government was falling short of standards in a 2009 U.S.-Peru trade deal, which, like the TPP, is supposed to ensure internationally-recognized labor benchmarks.

Democrat spotlights Peru labor complaint

The Hill

The top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday welcomed a complaint against Peru’s government for alleged labor violations ahead of what could be the final round of talks on a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal....

“It is disconcerting that there's been a failure to address this long-standing problem,” said [Rep. Sandy] Levin [of Michigan], who helped broker the U.S-Peru trade agreement in 2009.... 

The complaint filed Thursday by the International Labor Rights Forum and Peruvian labor unions says that the government is using a special export law to skirt worker rights set out in the U.S.-Peru pact.

Candy makers fire back on forced labor

The Hill

Candy makers say they won’t stand in the way of an effort in Congress to end a decades-old statute that allows U.S. companies to import goods made with forced labor.

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) stormed Capitol Hill this week to correct what they called a mischaracterization of their stance after some lawmakers expressed concern that candy makers were calling to preserve the import exemption. 

The 1932 trade rule allows some products that are made by forced or child labor to enter the United States when demand outstrips the domestic supply.

Artisanal, hand-crafted chocolate is a growing niche

Los Angeles Times

Ryan Berk makes his chocolate from scratch. That means flying to Central America four times a year, hiking over Maya ruins to remote jungle villages and meeting face-to-face with the farmers who supply his cocoa beans.

Roasted back home at Berk's shop, the beans have a habit of enveloping downtown Redlands with a warm smell like brownies fresh from the oven. It's only then that the chocolate maker with the Indiana Jones streak can mix and shape the ancient treat into bars, carefully wrapping each one by hand.

Bold Thai plan to send prisoners to sea sinks amid rights protests


A radical plan by the Thai government to put prisoners to work on the country's under-staffed fishing boats has been scrapped, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, following charges the scheme threatened inmates' rights.

Rights groups had also argued the idea would fail to address the fundamental causes of the labor shortage that fuels human trafficking in Thailand's fishing industry.

Thailand considered sourcing your fish dinner with prison labor

Global Post

BANGKOK, Thailand — Trawling the ocean on a Thai fishing boat is one of Asia’s foulest jobs.

It can involve 20-hour work days on a reeking boat, bobbing on lawless seas, under captains who lord over crews like slave drivers. The job attracts so few takers that fishing syndicates infamously rely on forced labor: duping migrants onto ships and forcing them to toil for no pay.

It’s little wonder that Thailand’s fishing industry — a top supplier to the US — struggles to attract workers under such grim conditions.