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Burma uses forced labor, so trade d

Subject: Burma uses forced labor, so trade deal scrapped

	 BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuter) - The European Commission called  
Wednesday for special trade benefits for Burma to be scrapped 
following an investigation into the use of forced labor by the 
military regime in Rangoon. 
	 The decision is a blow to Rangoon's pride, but will have  
little effect on its wallet. Burmese industrial exports to 
European Union countries totaled just $30 million in 1995, and 
special low tariffs saved it no more than $365,000, the 
Commission estimates. 
	 ``It is symbolic,'' said one Commission official. ``But the  
symbolism is vitally important to SLORC.'' 
	 SLORC, the State Law and Order Restoration Council which  
governs Burma, came under fire again earlier this week when the 
EU issued a statement condeming police brutality while 
dispersing recent student demonstrations in Rangoon. 
	 The symbolism may be important in an international context,  
too, as this was the first case to draw a direct link between 
trade and abuse of basic workers' rights, an issue which greatly 
excercised a meeting of world trade ministers last week. 
	 Developing countries are concerned that linking the two  
issues will open a back door for protectionists wanting to keep 
products made by low-paid workers out of their home markets. 
	 Under European law, however, trade benefits which are  
unilaterally granted to developing countries to encourage 
economic growth can be suspended if beneficiaries are shown to 
force people to work against their will or without pay. 
	 The Commission's recommendation will likely be approved by  
EU finance ministers in January. 
	 Investigators spent a year poring through thousands of pages  
of personal accounts and hearing testimony from people who say 
they have been made to work as virtual slaves, often on 
infrastructure and hotel projects which SLORC hopes will bring 
in much-needed foreign exchange. 
	 According to the International Confederation of Free Trade  
Unions (ICFTU), which launched the complaint, 800,000 Burmese 
are forced to work without pay or against their will, 
contributing around a tenth of the country's economic output.