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EU Trade Sanctions Against Burma





    Burma: Trade unions applaud European Union move to link 

    trade with labour standards. 


    International trade union groups have applauded a European Commission
recommendation to suspend Burma's trade privileges because of systematic use
of forced labour.  Burmals exports to the European Union are worth US$75
million (60 million ECUS), two thirds of which were eligible for substantial
tariffs reductions. 

    ``This is a welcome step which sends a clear message that privileged
access to European markets is not available to countries that grossly abuse
human rights at work'' leaders of the International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) say. 

    The European Commission's decision is based on a 1,500-page complaint
lodged in 1995 by the ETUC and the ICFTU.  According to the unions 800,000
Burmese are presently involved in various forms of forced labour which makes
up to 10% of the country's total GDP. 

    ``Thousands of Burmese have died after having been forcefully recruited
by the army to serve as porters.  Others are found on construction sites and
railways and entire villages have been evacuated by government forces in
connection with the construction of a gas pipeline by oil giants, Total and
Unocal,'' says ICFTU General Secretary Bill Jordan. 

    The suspension decision is the first since the European Union included
social provisions in its Generalized Scheme of Preferences in 1995.  The GSP
is aimed at helping developing countries to access European markets with
substantial reduction in tariffs for their exports.  The social provisions,
however, enable the EC to deny such advantage to countries resorting to
forced labour.  The ICFTU and the ETUC have also announced that they will
call on the EU to extend its GSP denial to cover Burma's agricultural
exports worth 15 million ECUS, as until January 1997 agricultural exports (a
quarter of Burmals total export to the EU) are immune of GSP sanctions. 

    The trade union complaint was supported by Aung San Suu Kyi, in the form
of a taped interview smuggled out of Burma and presented to the Commission's
hearings last September.  ``We hope that European sanctions will sent a
strong signal to the generals in Rangoon, that the international community
will not tolerate forced labour,'' the trade unions say. 

    The unions have submitted a similar complaint regarding forced labour in
Pakistan and expect the Commission to consider it with the same rigour and

    The ICFTU consists of 195 national trade union centres in 137 countries
representing 124 million workers world-wide.  The ETUC consists of 62
national trade union centres in 28 European countries and 14 trade union
industrial federations.  It represents 57 million European workers. 

    For details contact the ICFTU Trade Union Rights Department at 32 2 224
0201 or the ICFTU Press at 32 2 224 0210. 


11:07 12-23-96