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US Commits to Improving Labor Conditions in Jordan’s Garment Sector

Labor and trade officials from the United States and Jordan met in Amman last week to discuss improving labor standards in the country’s growing garment sector as part of the United States-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.

The Labor Subcommittee of the United States convened in Jordan to talk about the two nations working together to best understand the other’s labor situation, cooperating on labor issues like worker’s rights and facilitating interaction with the public on labor-related issues.

Jordan has been cited for child labor in the past and the country has since been implementing initiatives to curb the illegal practice. According to the United States Department of Labor, Syrian child refugees have been forced to work excessive hours and under sometimes hazardous conditions in the food service, sales and manufacturing sectors. In January 2013, the U.S. and Jordanian governments signed an Implementation Plan to address labor conditions like these.

As part of a public session during the meetings, members of both country’s governments and stakeholders from the Jordanian garment industry held a roundtable discussion on promoting labor rights within the garment sector specifically.

Both parties agreed to work toward implementing activities to strengthen institutional capacity and labor law enforcement and compliance, combat child labor and protect vulnerable populations, protect against gender discrimination, provide safeguards against sexual harassment in the workplace, and promote occupational safety and health and tripartite social dialogue.

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According to a statement, “The Parties believe that the public session just concluded helps foster greater transparency in the administration of the FTA’s labor provisions and furthers the successful implementation of those labor provisions.”

Jordan’s textile and apparel industry has continued to improve, and according to the Jordanian Department of Statistics, clothing topped the list of national export commodities in the first four months of this year.

Clothes and knitted accessories exported from Jordan were up 18.4% over the same period last year to 61.8 million Jordanian dinar ($87 million), according to the country’s Department of Statistics. In 2013, the U.S. imported a total of 1.2 billion worth of goods from Jordan and the top import categories were: Knit Apparel ($691 million), Woven Apparel ($352 million), Precious Stones and Metal (jewelry) ($70 million), Miscellaneous Textile Articles ($25 million), and Pharmaceutical Products ($20 million), according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

Last week’s labor committee meeting is expected to foster compliant trade with the growing nation under the FTA.

Amit Pandya, chief of staff of the Bureau for International Labor Affairs at the Labor Department, said, “A sustained and transparent dialogue on labor matters, with public participation, is crucial to full implementation of the FTA’s labor provisions.” He added, “We applaud the Government of Jordan for the important steps it has taken to protect workers’ rights and appreciate the continued commitment to work together to advance labor rights as a meaningful part of this important bilateral agreement.”