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EU must end preferential trade arrangement with Myanmar military

13 July, 2022IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union are calling on the European Union to take stronger action against the military junta in Myanmar, including the withdrawal of Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences.

The EU’s EBA trade scheme provides Myanmar with beneficial trading tariffs, in blatant disregard of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences’ (GSP) own regulations, which state that beneficiary countries must respect the principles of fifteen core conventions on human and labour rights.

Most trade unions in Myanmar are banned, union leaders have been arrested or are in hiding. The jobs facilitated by EBA are in no way decent jobs, respecting fundamental labour standards, and IndustriALL’s affiliate, Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), compares the conditions to modern slavery. Unfortunately, real human rights due diligence is simply not possible in these conditions.

Shockingly, last month, the regime announced its intention to execute political opponents. By maintaining theEBA arrangement, the EU is creating a situation where European companies stand to profit from gross human rights violations and European citizens may unwittingly support the regime by buying products made in Myanmar under these terrible conditions.

“Myanmar is facing profound and well-documented violations of UN and ILO Conventions included in the GSP/EBA regulations, by multinational companies and brands, among which 61 EU well-known fashion brands,”

says Khaing Zar, IWFM president.

“Respect for the Conventions are conditions for maintaining the EBA and the workers’ rights need a prompt and effective response by the EU.”

The garment industry remains a vital source of foreign exchange for the regime. IndustriALL’s campaign demands that brands cease production in Myanmar, pointing out the discrepancy between their immediate withdrawal from Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, and their continued presence in Myanmar.

Despite the dire human rights situation in Myanmar since the coup in February 2021, most garment brands continue to source from the country; we believe often in breach of their own codes of practice. The brands claim their presence does not benefit the military and provides employment, but they provide important foreign exchange, as well as income to the regime in the form of taxes and duties.

“There is no decent work in a country ruled by a military regime and where unions cannot operate,”

says IndustriALL General Secretary Atle Høie.

“There is no way to do business in Myanmar without doing harm to the people and workers. We are urging the European Union to immediately suspend the EBA arrangement with Myanmar.”

Luc Triangle, General Secretary for industriAll Europe added:

‘’The message from garment workers in Myanmar to the EU is clear. Take action, suspend the EBA agreement, and cut off vital funds to the terrible military junta. We expect the EU to act responsibly and to act now.’’