The US and Honduras have signed a landmark agreement on labour rights aimed at addressing gaps in the enforcement of Honduran labour laws identified in a US labour report earlier this year.

In an update by the US Department of Labor, the agreement goes beyond the reforms called for in the February report on the country's compliance with the US-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreementn (DR-CAFTA), which raised "serious" concerns over worker rights and factory conditions.

US labour concerns at Honduras apparel makers

The agreement, it said, includes actions to not only address the legal, institutional, and practical challenges to labour law enforcement in Honduras, but to also increase transparency, outreach to labour and business stakeholders, and US-Honduran cooperation to strengthen the outcomes and sustainability of the agreement.

The plan's implementation, the Department of Labor added, is aimed at levelling the playing field for companies operating in Honduras that "play by the rules".

"To ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared, you need meaningful enforcement that protects workers and supports a growing and vibrant middle class at home and around the world," said Secretary Perez. "Minister Madero and his team really stepped up to the plate to negotiate this promising and far-reaching agreement that will benefit Honduran workers as well as workers here in the United States."

The report published in February was in response to a 78-page submission filed by the US union federation AFL-CIO and 26 Honduran unions and civil society organisations, alleging the Honduran government failed to effectively enforce its labour laws. It called for the Department of Labor, in consultation with the Office of the US Trade Representative and US Department of State, to review progress towards addressing the concerns within 12 months.

In October, Honduras recorded a 9.5% drop in apparel exports to the US to 98bn SME. Year-to-date, however, imports were up 2.2% to 935m SME, according to data from the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).  

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