The WTO conference must take account of fundamental rights and employment
Representatives of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), present at the sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, call on the negotiators to give serious attention to working conditions, fundamental rights and the freedom to engage in collective bargaining, whether in the services or agricultural sectors. The ETUC insists also that the southern countries must have a margin for manoeuvre, to enable them to sustain and strengthen their development.
A European trade union delegation, led by ETUC Confederal Secretary Joël Decaillon, met the Commission on 15 December 2005. During the discussion, Joël Decaillon expressed his deep concern about the current state of the negotiations at the sixth WTO Ministerial Conference, and in particular about the risk of leaving out questions of fundamental rights and employment. Whether in the sector of agriculture, services, or of market access for non-agricultural products, the negotiators must start to take account of employment, working conditions, trade union rights and the freedom to reach collective agreements, as a matter of urgency, just as they must give consideration to public health and the environment.
Since Cancun, the European Union, focusing on its own internal crisis, has failed to evaluate fully the evolution of the emerging countries and the new power relations at play in international negotiations. The ETUC reaffirms that Europe must conduct its international policies with respect for fundamental rights, and demands that answers to world trade must be refocused with this perspective.
The trade unions, taking account of the cooperation with UN agencies recognised in the draft final declaration, demand that an explicit reference to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) should also be introduced.
Development cannot be viewed as an isolated issue in the negotiations. It must be integrated into all the questions on the agenda and constitute a means of evaluating the agreements reached in Hong Kong. The funding promised by the industrialised countries for trade assistance must genuinely be from new sources; it must not come from the reallocation of existing finance.
In the negotiations on industrial products, the southern countries must have margins of manoeuvre that allow them to put in place genuine national strategies for industrial development, insists the trade union delegation.
With regard to services, the trade unions call on the EU to stop imposing a new system of compulsory negotiation, which denies countries the opportunity to choose freely the nature of the services they wish to negotiate on at international level.
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