EU warns Myanmar over labour rights

brett mathews | 7th November 2018

BRUSSELS – The EU has warned Myanmar it must act now to address “severe shortcomings” in human and labour rights or risk losing trade benefits. The issues were identified when a monitoring mission from the European Commission and European External Action Service visited Myanmar. The visit followed concerning developments highlighted in various United Nations reports, in particular as regards human rights violations in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States and concerns around labour rights.

In 2017, 72 per cent of Myanmar’s exports to the EU could be attributed to textiles, leading to particularly strong job creation and growth in this sector. The EU is the 3rd largest export market of Myanmar, absorbing around 8.8 per cent of Myanmar’s total exports in 2017.

The latest EU mission was part of the broader engagement that the European Commission has launched to monitor Myanmar’s respect of fifteen fundamental UN and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. In order to continue to benefit from duty-free, quota-free access to the EU market through the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, Myanmar must uphold and respect the principles enshrined in these conventions.

The EU mission also discussed its concerns regarding the continued use of forced labour in parts of the country, in particular by Myanmar’s armed forces, including child recruitment, as well as the need for further reforms as regards freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The findings of this mission will feed into the analysis on whether to remove these trade preferences through a temporary EBA withdrawal procedure.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “Trade, done right, is a powerful force for good. Since several years, we have worked to ensure that trade preferences and access to the EU market are an incentive to promote fundamental human and labour rights. We now expect Myanmar to address the severe shortcomings that have been highlighted during this monitoring mission.

“If they do not act, Myanmar authorities are putting their country’s tariff-free access to the EU market in danger– a scheme which has proved to be vital for the economic and social development of the country, providing thousands of jobs to workers in sectors such as textiles, agriculture and fisheries. We are committed to helping Myanmar improve the situation and ensure that the principles enshrined in the international conventions to which Myanmar has committed are not undermined.”

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