With­drawal of EU perks may elim­i­nate 400,000 jobs: of­fi­cials

The Myanmar Times - - News -

IF the Euro­pean Union re­moves Myan­mar’s trade ben­e­fits un­der the Gen­er­alised Scheme of Pref­er­ences (GSP), gar­ment fac­to­ries could close and al­most 400,000 gar­ment work­ers be thrown out of work, busi­ness and labour lead­ers warned.

U Khin Maung Aye, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Lat War gar­ment fac­tory, said the gar­ment in­dus­try and labour unions are urg­ing the EU to re­con­sider its plan to re­voke the coun­try’s GSP ben­e­fits be­cause such a move would have noth­ing to do with Myan­mar’s po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of a EU mis­sion met with lo­cal busi­ness­men and labour union lead­ers in Yan­gon on Mon­day to dis­cuss the re­moval of the coun­try’s pref­er­en­tial trade sta­tus, as a puni­tive mea­sure for the fail­ure of the govern­ment to re­solve the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in north­ern Rakhine State.

U Khin Maung Aye, who at­tended the meeting, said the gar­ment fac­tory own­ers ex­pressed strong reser­va­tions about the plan.

“We may fold if the GSP is re­moved,” he said, adding that such a move could sti­fle growth in a sec­tor that is just now re­cov­er­ing from a slump.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion and Myan­mar Gar­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, the tex­tile and gar­ment in­dus­try in Myan­mar em­ploys nearly 700,000 peo­ple – 90 per­cent of them women – and gen­er­ates about US$2.7 bil­lion (K4.29 tril­lion) in for­eign ex­change, sec­ond only to oil and gas ex­ports last year.

The EU ac­counted for US$1.8 bil­lion, or 72pc, of Myan­mar’s gar­ment ex­ports last year.

But U Khin Aung Aye ad­mit­ted that the GSP re­moval would not have an im­me­di­ate ef­fect on the in­dus­try.

“Our con­cern is we how long we can sur­vive be­fore we rise again,” he said.

U Naw Aung, vice chair of Myan­mar In­dus­tries Craft and Ser­vices Trade Union Fed­er­a­tion, who was also at the meeting, said the coun­try’s labour sec­tor is un­sta­ble and the re­moval of GSP ben­e­fits would hit the gar­ment in­dus­try hard­est, not the govern­ment or the mil­i­tary. He said the move could af­fect the demo­cratic tran­si­tion and the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple.

“Peo­ple will go deeper into poverty,” U Naw Aung warned.

U Zaw Htay, spokesper­son of the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, said on Mon­day the EU must un­der­stand that Myan­mar’s democrati­sa­tion, peace process and other re­forms will be af­fected by such a move.

“Sanc­tions should not bur­den the peo­ple. The EU must un­der­stand our po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

– Nyan Lynn Aung

Photo: EPA

Myan­mar work­ers at the Sh­weyi Zabe gar­ment fac­tory in Shwe Pyi Thar in­dus­trial zone in Yan­gon in Septem­ber 2015.

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