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Africa: Trade Unions Speak Out on Trade
Mar 17, 2007 (070317)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Labor leaders from Brazil, India, South Africa and other developing
countries spoke out earlier this month opposing demands by rich
countries for sweeping cuts in tariffs. And global trade unions,
formalizing new international ties, are also demanding that rich
countries respond to the need for better terms for African cotton
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains statements from the recently
formed International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on these
issues, highlighting a more active and visible stand on
international trade negotiations.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on trade, see
For more information on this and related issues, contact Carin
Smaller, Trade Information Project Institute for Agriculture
and Trade Policy, Geneva Office 15 rue des Savoises Geneva 1205 ph:
+41 22 789 0734 fax: +41 22 789 0733 firstname.lastname@example.org
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
WTO: Trade Unions Call for Action on Cotton
Brussels, 15 March 2007: Global trade unions are demanding that
this week's high-level session on cotton at the World Trade
Organisation in Geneva must embark on a root and branch reform of
trade in cotton instead of tinkering at the edges. The aim must be
to secure concrete progress to address the needs of cotton
producing developing countries and their workers and thus help lift
those countries, particularly in Africa, out of poverty. Cotton
production is hugely important for a number of developing country
producers, however despite the listing of cotton as a priority
issue by the WTO in 2004 and 2005 by the WTO, little real progress
has been made on addressing the enormous subsidies which some
industrialised countries provide to domestic growers in the sector.
This is having disastrous consequences in Africa, in particular.
While the WTO meeting this week is supposed to address both trade
reform and development assistance issues concerning cotton
production, the trade unions believe that it must be treated as a
core development issue. Currently, Africa produces some of the
world's best cotton, but, nearly 97% of Africa's cotton is exported
in raw form and only 3% is transformed on the continent. Africa's
garment producers must then import finished fabric from other
continents at considerable additional cost which, in turn, makes
them uncompetitive in global markets.
At the same time, the real issues confronting the agriculture
sector overall are not being addressed in the multilateral trading
system. Although income from cotton is crucial for some of the
poorest developing countries, domestic food production capacity has
been lost due to subsidised dumping, and the international
financial institutions have been pushing developing countries to
orient agriculture towards exports, to the detriment of domestic
needs. The sustainability of this export-oriented strategy is
highly questionable, and getting fair prices and greater export
volumes for cotton can only be one part of a comprehensive
development agenda. Instability in cotton prices and the
over-pricing of inputs such as fertilisers, fuel and chemicals also
need to be addressed. Also, domestic food production should play a
central role in a strategic development agenda in developing
countries, in order to move away from the dependency on cotton
In addition, the living and working conditions of workers and small
farmers in the cotton sector must be given priority. The sector is
characterised by low wages, high injury and illness rates due
especially to fertilisers and pesticides, child labour and forced
labour, and poor or non-existent health, sanitary and medical
facilities. Many migrant workers with little or no social
protection work in the sector. "In some major exporting countries,
cotton workers do not have even the basic human right to join a
trade union", according to Ron Oswald, General Secretary of the
Global Union Federation IUF which covers the agriculture sector.
The union bodies are also pressing for greater use of locally-grown
cotton in production of textiles and garments in developing
countries. "The best way of combating poverty is through job
creation and one way of doing that in Africa is to process raw
materials like cotton in the continent, adding value and promoting
growth" said Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the ITGLWF, the
Global Union Federation for the textiles and garment sector.
"Currently, developing countries are experiencing a lose-lose
situation, on the one hand being forced to export raw cotton, but,
on the other being stopped in their tracks by subsidized production
in the industrialized world. The WTO must take the reins and deal
with this urgently before even further damage is done to workers
and their communities in the developing country cotton producers."
"The story of cotton today shows just how much needs to be done to
reform the international trade and financial systems", said ITUC
General Secretary Guy Ryder. "Workers in some of the world's
poorest countries are bearing the brunt of global policies that are
undermining economies and communities and resulting in exploitation
and growing inequality worldwide".
Founded on November 1 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million workers
in 153 countries and territories and has 304 national affiliates.
For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on
+32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.
16/03/2007 - themes : Southern Africa
Strength in unity: a new international trade union confederation is
International Trade Union Confederation
ITUC Media Release
Vienna, 1 November 2006: Today will see the dawn of a new trade
union international, a stronger and more united voice of workers'
worldwide set to tackle the challenge of globalisation with renewed
energy and hope.
As the culmination of a process that has inspired new hope in the
face of huge challenges, the International Trade Union
Confederation (ITUC) will be be officially formed at this morning's
opening session of its Founding Congress in Vienna. The Founding
Congress of the ITUC, which will run until 3 November, was preceded
yesterday by the dissolution congresses of the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World
Confederation of Labour (WCL). The new ITUC will comprise the
affiliated organisations of the former ICFTU and WCL together with
eight other national trade union organisations that will for the
first time affiliate to a global body.
The international trade union movement is adapting in order to
remain a key player in an economic climate that is creating more
losers than winners. The imbalances of economic globalisation are
having a devastating effect on millions of workers. Off-shoring,
abuse of workers' rights and increasing poverty are all examples of
the negative impact of these developments.
'The creation of the ITUC will solidify the trade union movement's
capacity at the national and international levels', declared Guy
Ryder, the former General Secretary of the ICFTU and prospective
General Secretary of the ITUC. 'Stronger, we will exert more
influence on companies, governments and the international financial
and trade institutions. The founding of the ITUC is an integral
part of the process of uniting the power of trade unionism," he
Willy Thys, the former General Secretary of the WCL, said today:
'There is no doubt that the ITUC will become an effective
countervailing force in a society that has changed enormously, with
workers' rights being flouted under the pressure created by the
current trajectory of " race to the bottom" globalisation'.
The Founding Congress, a historic event for the international union
movement, will begin this morning with a formal opening ceremony.
This will be followed by a plenary debate and an address by Juan
Somavia, the Director-General of the International Labour
The programme for Thursday, 2 November, will include panel
discussions on the impact of globalisation, including "Cohesion and
chaos the global institutions" and "Global unions global
companies". Pascal Lamy, the Director-General of the World Trade
Organisation, will address the congress in the morning via a
satellite video link. The final day of the Congress, Friday 3
November, will focus on the adoption of the ITUC's programme and
the establishment of regional structures. Those decisions will be
followed by the election of the new organisation's General
Secretary and General Council, with the Council electing the
remaining office bearers following the close of the Congress.
The ITUC represents 168 million workers through its 306 affiliated
organisations within 154 countries and territories. More
information on the ITUC can be found at http://www.ituc-csi.org.
The ITUC is also partner in Global Unions:
For more information please contact the ITUC Press Department on
+43 (0) 664 593 6190.
Trade Unions Unite Against Rising Unemployment: WTO Talks Could
Worsen Job Climate
[This press release and statement, as well as additional related
information, can be found at http://www.ituc-csi.org or
Founded on November 1 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million workers
in 153 countries and territories and has 304 national affiliates.]
Geneva, Switzerland, 9 March 2007 (ITUC OnLine) - Trade union
leaders from Brazil, India, South Africa, and other developing
countries, traveled this week to a Global Unions meeting in Geneva
to deliver a message to WTO members rising unemployment if their
countries accept demands by developed countries to open up markets
for manufactured goods. The trade unions' visit comes amid
increasing pressure on developing countries to accept steep cuts on
industrial tariffs in order to unblock the stalled Doha trade
One worker, Badiah Peterson, a 41-year old clothing manufacturer
from Cape Town, South Africa, already lost her job when the
swimwear company she worked for was forced to close down because of
the surge of cheap clothing imports, mainly from China. Clothing
imports into South Africa, increased by 480% in US Dollar value
over three years and contributed to 70 000 jobs being lost since
2003 - a third of the entire industry.
Stories like Badiah's are happening to manufacturing workers all
over the developing world in textiles, clothing, electronic goods,
white goods, paper, plastics, automobile, and metals.
"The situation could become a lot worse," said Guy Ryder, ITUC
General Secretary "if current proposals at the WTO for draconian
cuts in developing country industrial tariffs are agreed to."
Trade unions refuse to leave the fate of millions of workers in the
hands of WTO negotiators. They are biting back. Trade Unions from
NAMA-11developing countries-including South Africa's COSATU and
Brazil's CUT-have formed a NAMA-11 trade union group to defend the
interests of their workers. The trade unions set out their demands
in an ITUC press conference today to ensure industries and
employment in their countries are protected.
"We call upon our Ministers to resist any further concessions in
the manufactured goods negotiations," said Jacy Afonso de Melo,
CUT-Brazil. "The existing NAMA-11 position already goes too far and
will have negative consequences for manufacturing employment and
industrial development in our countries."
"Our governments must ensure the commitments they make in relation
to manufactured goods are in-line with our different stages of
development and that adequate flexibilities are built into any
final agreement," said Rudi Dicks of COSATU.
NAMA-11 Trade Union Statement on the Non-Agricultural Market Access
(NAMA) negotiations at the WTO
In a historic show of unity, trade unions from major developing
countries are speaking out on the impact of proposals currently on
the table in the NAMA negotiations.
Trade Union centres from NAMA-11 countries (Argentina, Brazil,
Egypt, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa,
Tunisia and Venezuela) call upon Trade ministers and negotiators of
the NAMA-11 group to make no further concessions in the area of
NAMA, given that their existing position would already deliver
deeply negative results for manufacturing employment and industrial
development in many developing countries. Trade talks that promised
to deliver to the world's poor and to promote the needs and
interests of workers in developing countries are not achieving
The current NAMA-11 position, dating from 29 June 2006, states that
a difference of at least 25 points is needed between the
coefficient for developed and the coefficient for developing
countries. Furthermore, the NAMA-11 position states that
flexibilities as formulated in paragraph 8 have to be at least at
the level of the ones currently in brackets (i.e. 5% and 10% as
stipulated in the July 2004 framework).
From a trade union point of view the current NAMA-11 position would
have substantial negative effects and should be reviewed.
Assuming a coefficient of 10 for developed countries, this would
result in a coefficient of 35 for developing countries under the
NAMA-11 position. But even a coefficient of 35 would have serious
consequences for the applied rates of a number of tariffs in
several of our countries, especially in the sectors of clothing,
textiles, footwear, leather, plastic and rubber, furniture and
automobile. Even the use of paragraph 8 flexibilities would not
prevent such consequences. Consequences will be twofold. On the one
hand the reductions in tariffs beyond currently applied rates will
have a devastating effect on employment in our countries. With
unemployment rates already at high levels and challenges of youth
unemployment and decent work deficits at the forefront, additional
policy elements that will lead to job losses cannot be taken up.
Secondly, the basis on which the formula and flexibilities are
constructed prevents our countries from making future changes in
response to policy needs. The Swiss formula reduces all tariff
lines to the same extent without flexibility and without exception
(apart from the paragraph 8 flexibilities) and with no changes
possible in the future. The flexibilities, already low in itself,
can not be altered in the future in response to changing needs for
protection in one or the other sector. In other words, the current
industrial structure will be captured in the NAMA agreement without
possibility for such future changes. Given that all countries are
at different stages of development and have different future needs,
a one-size-fits-all formula cannot deliver in terms of development
and will prevent our economies from developing.
The Swiss formula also reduces tariff escalation, which will
negatively affect our countries' abilities to protect
labour-intensive downstream sectors.
Moreover, the principle of less than full reciprocity that is at
the centre of the NAMA-11 statements in the WTO will not be
respected with the position that the NAMA-11 has taken, i.e. a
difference in coefficients of 25 points. Even such a difference
will still result in higher percentage reductions by developing
countries than by developed countries.
Therefore we call upon the NAMA-11 members to:
- Pressure developed countries to make unconditional offers of
greater market access in Agriculture, which must not be linked with
NAMA. The benefits from market access in agriculture are likely to
flow to a few countries only, and are likely to benefit capital
intensive agriculture. Industrial development and jobs in
manufacturing in our countries should not be exchanged against
these. Even in countries that benefit from market access in
agriculture, it is not right to have a trade-off between future
industrial growth and agriculture.
- Ensure that developing countries can apply a tariff reduction
that is in line with their stage of development, in conformity with
the agreed principle of less than full reciprocity, and which
should be substantially lower than the cuts undertaken by developed
countries and the proposals for tariff cuts currently on the table.
- Ensure that developing countries' "paragraph 8" flexibilities, as
currently set out in the July 2004 framework, are expanded
substantially. The flexibilities should allow for both the
exemption of tariff lines as well as lesser tariff cuts for a
number of tariff lines. Developing countries should not have to
choose between these two options. At the same time, these
percentages should be increased to a percentage considerably higher
than the current levels in brackets, and criteria with regard to
import value should be dropped. This would assist developing
countries in managing the adjustment of sensitive sectors and
preventing the social disruption caused by job losses and closure
of enterprises that would result from further liberalization; these
flexibilities should also allow for changes over time in the tariff
lines that will be selected to be covered by paragraph 8, so as to
respond to future industrial development needs.
- Maintain their unity at the WTO in the face of pressure from
- Ensure the Doha Development Round benefits developing countries.
By agreeing to some of the proposals currently on the table or by
relaxing the group's current positions, this round will not deliver
on its aim of promoting development for the world's poor. If
anything, it will keep them in low-level agriculture and minerals
Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary COSATU, South Africa
Jacy Afonso de Melo, CUT, Brazil
Adolfo Aguirre, Secretario de Relaciones Internacionales, CTA,
Dennis George, General Secretary, FEDUSA, South Africa
Manuel Cova, Secretario General, CTV, Venezuela
Osvaldo Vera, Coordinador Nacional UNT, Venezuela
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