Cablegate: Secretary Chao's Meeting with Argentine Minister of Labor

Published: Fri 14 Dec 2007 08:46 AM
DE RUEHBU #2338/01 3480846
P 140846Z DEC 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Begin Summary and Introduction: Secretary Chao, head of
the U.S. delegation to the presidential inauguration of Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner, met with Argentine Labor Minister Carlos
Tomada on December 10. The Secretary conveyed U.S. support for
International Labor Organization (ILO) standards which the U.S. has
incorporated into trade agreements, and Tomada praised the ILO's
"Decent Work" initiative. Secretary Chao explained that the U.S.
approach to creating well-paid jobs centered on investing to improve
the skills of its workforce. She described the assistance provided
to U.S. workers displaced by trade agreements and federal-state
partnerships to help workers throughout the U.S. This frank
discussion of several issues of great relevance to the GOA served us
well in renewing Tomada's interest in closer cooperation with the
U.S. End Summary/Introduction.
2. (U) Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor, met at the Ambassador's
Residence with Argentine Labor Minister Carlos Tomada a few hours
before the December 10 swearing-in of President-elect Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK). They recalled their previous meeting
and the excellent cooperation and extensive contacts between their
staffs. The Secretary was accompanied by the Ambassador, DOL Deputy
Under Secretary for International Relations Charlotte Ponticelli,
and Polcouns Alexander Featherstone (notetaker). Minister Tomada
was accompanied by his chief of staff, Norberto Ciaravino, and
Director of International Affairs, Julio Rosales. Secretary Chao
congratulated Tomada on CFK's vote of confidence in asking him to
stay in his position, and she invited him and his team to visit
Washington at any time. Tomada said he had accepted the renewal of
his cabinet position to help the new administration continue and
deepen the implementation of Nestor Kirchner's economic and social
model within a democratic framework. Argentina needed to re-insert
itself into the international community and attract greater
investment, he said.
International Labor Organization
3. (SBU) In response to a question from Minister Tomada, Secretary
Chao said that the U.S., as the biggest financial contributor to the
ILO, tried to work within the ILO framework but has tried to avoid
its internal politics. She noted there were countries that did not
like the ILO tripartite agreement, and that some European countries
were increasingly vocal about their unhappiness with the ILO. She
said DG Somavia had done a good job and appeared to be
well-positioned to win his bid for a third consecutive term. His
globalization study had received much attention. The U.S. supported
International Labor Organization (ILO) standards which had been
incorporated into recent trade agreements.
4. (SBU) Tomada said he thought the ILO had made a significant
contribution by getting its "Decent Work" initiative on the agenda
of not just the ILO but the entire UN system. Tomada said he
believed in UN reform writ large and that the ILO, in particular,
needed to keep pace with global changes. Worldwide, people were
looking to their governments to establish the conditions necessary
to generate employment, and in the context of globalization, Tomada
thought the ILO's "Decent Work" initiative sent an important
message. Tomada agreed that Somavia had done a satisfactory job at
the head of the ILO.
Generating Skilled Employment with Decent Pay
5. (SBU) Secretary Chao stressed U.S. support for decent wages. She
said the U.S. was not interested in low-paying jobs; it was looking
to create jobs through the private sector that were sustainable in
the long-term. She noted that U.S. unemployment was down to 4.7%,
that 94,000 jobs had been created in November alone, and that 51
straight months of employment growth had yielded 8.4 million new
jobs. Secretary Chao said the U.S. goal was to continue to create
well-paying jobs, and the U.S. method of ensuring decent pay was
tied to constant investment in the workforce to maintain higher
skills. Secretary Chao noted that two-thirds of new jobs were
skilled, requiring high school or post-secondary education. In
addition to the major investment made by large U.S. companies in
workforce training, DOL deployed $50 billion annually to training
programs. She pointed out that a key aspect of the U.S. labor
market was worker mobility. There were 151 million workers in the
U.S. economy, and every year 50 million jobs changed hands. This
was mostly the result of workers moving to better jobs. As a result
of the constant search for better opportunities, the average
40-year-old worker in the U.S. had held 10 jobs.
6. (SBU) Secretary Chao added that U.S. workers enjoyed a
significant safety net, with a rich benefit package. She said that
in cases of job loss due to trade dislocation, benefits (depending
on the state of employment) included up to two years of unemployment
insurance, two years of training, two years of child care and other
assistance, and 65% of health care. Displaced workers over the age
of 50 who were re-hired at lower pay could get 50% of the difference
from the government. She said there were some in the U.S. Congress
pushing for four years of benefits, but the Administration
considered four years too long, since the idea was to get these
workers back into the labor market.
Federal-State Partnerships to Help Workers
7. (SBU) The Secretary noted that DOL often worked through state
governments. She said the U.S. believed in decentralization, and
although this made it more challenging to manage a system that could
be quite diffuse, it had its advantages. In partnership with state
and local government, DOL had "one-stop centers" governed by boards
with local members, allowing communities to set priorities for their
local one-stop labor centers and gear training opportunities toward
local labor market conditions.
8. (SBU) Minister Tomada said he found the Secretary's comments
instructive because Argentina also had a federal system. He noted
that although the resource levels were greatly different, the two
governments had similar responses to similar challenges, citing as
an example his Labor Ministry's efforts to decentralize operations.
Although Argentina had traditionally looked to Europe as a model for
its labor relations, the Secretary's remarks reminded him that the
U.S. was a more appropriate model. He said that during the Kirchner
administration, unemployment fell from 23% to 8% due to high rates
of GDP growth. He said the GOA's challenge was to reach workers who
were far removed from the market economy as well as disadvantaged
sectors, including youth and women, that were vulnerable. He said
Cristina Kirchner was particularly keen on seeing improvements in
conditions for women workers. Secretary Chao noted that DOL had a
Women's Bureau, and that DOL had a long-standing commitment to
assisting women with special needs. She noted, for example, that
young, single mothers faced limited career prospects, and that DOL
therefore directed some of its assistance to help integrate them
into the workforce.
9. (SBU) Minister Tomada was genuinely pleased by his meeting with
Secretary Chao and the frank tenor of the conversation on several
issues of great relevance to the GOA. Following on other productive
GOA contacts at the working level with DOL's Employment and Training
Administration and Bureau of Labor Statistics, this meeting served
us well in renewing Tomada's interest in closer cooperation with the
United States.
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