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EU Moving To Reward Promises Rather Than Results

By International Trade Union Confederation  •  June 29, 2012
The ITUC is deeply concerned by the 15 June joint statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht calling for the rapid reinstatement of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Myanmar.

Myanmar was withdrawn from the list of GSP countries in 1997 based on 1994 and 1996 GSP Regulations which provided that preferences could be withdrawn in circumstances including the “practice of any form of forced labour,” as defined by ILO Conventions. Since that time, the government of Myanmar has indeed made progress in implementing the recommendations of the 1997 ILO Commission of Inquiry and in June 2012 entered into an action plan with the ILO to eradicate forced labour by the end of 2015. In so doing, the government has now recognised violations which it has long denied and has agreed to a series of concrete actions. However, there is no question that forced labour continues to be exacted in many parts of the country, including for portering, infrastructure projects and underage forced conscription into the military.

The ILO resolved at the 101st International Labour Conference to suspend that portion of the 2000 Resolution which had authorised member states to employ sanctions. It suspended rather than ended sanctions language because more remains to be done. A report is due at the November 2012 meeting of the ILO Governing Body to review progress on the implementation of the action plan on forced labour (as well as on freedom of association and the impact of investment on decent work). Any move by the EU to start a process to reinstate GSP before that report is due, much less before there are measurable results on the ground, would be very premature.

We also note Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s recent warning to the international community not to enter into business relations with Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) because of its dangerous lack of transparency. We agree and urge the EU to draw a bright line with regard to relations with MOGE. However, MOGE is merely emblematic of a larger problem with regard to transparency and rule of law. As the ITUC has previously called for, the EU must put in place a binding business and human rights framework

Given the country’s high level of corruption and poor record on human rights, binding requirements to assess and remedy any negative human rights impact from investments; public reporting; and the creation of effective complaints and dispute-settlement instruments, among others, will be essential to ensure that new trade and investment do not contribute to the country’s problems. We believe that such requirements are the only sure way to give effect to the EU’s repeated call for responsible investment, as well as Daw Aung Saw Suu Kyi’s call for investment that promotes social and economic progress.

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This post is in: Press Release

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