21 June, 2019Fifty union leaders resolved to organize a regional day of action for trade justice on 30 August as a collective effort to highlight the negative implications of free trade agreements in Asia-Pacific.
The union leaders were participating in a meeting on Asia-Pacific Trade and Industrial Policy, organized by IndustriALL Global Union and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) on 10-11 June 2019 in Singapore.
They echoed the ten guiding principles of IndustriALL’s global action plan towards trade for the benefit of the people, approved in Mexico in 2018, which calls on governments to respect ILO conventions and recommendations and ensure inclusion of enforceable labour rights in trade agreements.
The participants reaffirmed the stance that governments must retain appropriate policy space, substitute opaque negotiations with a democratic process, free of the threat of being sued by unaccountable investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms.
Proposed regional actions include sending mass letters to respective governments, and organizing demonstrations and side events while trade negotiations are taking place.
In addition, the meeting committed to intensify engagements with regional trade union networks and inter-governmental mechanisms such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to influence the trade policies that jeopardize the interests of workers. An information sharing and coordination mechanism for affiliates will be established to share experience and hold strategic discussions.
“The Asia-Pacific region is built by trade, therefore we unionists want a sustainable industrial policy so that everybody can share the benefit of trade. The next step is to bring the message home and act as reference persons. More important is how we can take collective action as a regional force to defend workers’ rights in a globalized world,”
said Valter Sanches, general secretary of IndustriALL.
The president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Andrew Dettmer stressed that it is crucial to build alliances with like-minded local organizations to fight trade liberalization and the interests of global capital. He shared the experience of the formation of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) in 2000 which successfully defeated the provisions of pharmaceutical scheme, ISDS and GM food labelling in the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA).
Also present were the managing director of FES Asia regional office Mirco Guenther, IndustriALL regional affiliates from Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.