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Unions Warn of Trade Deal Risks

1 December 2004

Unions Warn of Trade Deal Risks

The Council of Trade Unions is warning of considerable risks in the large number of trade deals that the Government is currently involved in.

Negotiations are under way for deals with Thailand, China, Singapore and Chile as well as the ASEAN countries – with a number of studies suggesting trade talks with other countries are also on the agenda.

“There is a risk that these deals will permanently damage New Zealand’s manufacturing base,” CTU president Ross Wilson said today. “There is also a risk that the phased elimination of tariffs will expose some sectors such as whiteware and clothing to unfair competition.”

Unions were also concerned that the human rights of workers producing the goods and services traded under these agreements were ignored.

“Myanmar (Burma) has a shocking record on human rights and has been condemned by the International Labour Organisation. The CTU has highlighted to Government numerous incidents of forced labour, assassination of union leaders and gross exploitation of workers.”

The agreement with Thailand includes a process for unions to take up complaints about breaches of labour rights, which was an improvement on the Singapore Closer Economic Partnership which had no reference to labour issues, Ross Wilson said.

“But this still falls far short of an enforceable and meaningful process to address beaches of core labour conventions such as the use of child labour, forced labour, discrimination and suppression of union rights.”

In a 2003 study on Thailand, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions reported forced labour, sweatshops, the exploitation of illegal migrant workers (including in the production of clothing for export) and forced prostitution (national and international trafficking of women and girls).


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