The CESD participated in the forum, “Why GSP is Essential for Decent Work and Industrial Peace”, where The CESD’s Executive Director, Dr. Zaw Oo, gave a presentation demonstrating evidence as to why the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is essential for Myanmar’s continued sustenance in socio-economic reforms and development. The forum was organised by the UMFCCI-Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Ctum Myanmar (Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar), with the objective of discussing possible consequences of GSP withdrawal and counter-arguments for it to remain.
In July 2013, the Council and the European Parliament lifted all sanctions against Myanmar, and re-administered the GSP agreement. The then EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: “This has the potential to make a huge difference to the country’s economic development and to bring real benefits to the people there.” In 2013, the then Myanmar government introduced a series of new labour laws, including the minimum wage law as well as the workers’ rights to organise trade unions throughout the country. It also persuaded the private sector to negotiate with the unions to enforce the minimum wage among other such developments. Eventual tripartite negotiations on the setting of the minimum wage were institutionalised further for the country to catch up with internationally-recognised workers rights.
The GSP / Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement provides tax-free market access for Myanmar products destined for the EU market, which has benefited the garment and food-processing sectors. However, the EU trade Mission visited Myanmar at the end of 2018, concluding that there is a possibility that the EU withdraws these benefits from Myanmar. The EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, stated in October that “We are not yet at the cliff edge and there is still time for Cambodia and Myanmar to draw themselves back from the brink. However, the consequences of the course that these countries are on are now clearly in sight.”
The objective of the forum was to explore the ramifications of the GSP’s withdrawal, the benefits that it provides, and to strategise towards uniform and coherent response that includes multiple stakeholders – employers, employees, trade unions, as well as Myanmar NGOs and INGOs. At the end of event, the UMFCCI, CTUM, & MICS – TUsF – Myanmar (Myanmar Industries Craft and Services Trade Union), with support from businesses and trade unions, released a joint statement that was ratified during the day’s proceedings. The joint statement can be found here.