Resolution of the South Asia Labour Forum on MAI

The WTO has built-in inequity having asymmetric obligations, which reinforces the unequal relationship between the developed and developing countries. The establishment of the WTO in pursuance of the consensus of the Multilateral/ International institutions that globalisation and liberalization promote economic growth, is seriously flawed, both analytically and empirically. Even in the Organization of Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) countries, where the employment elasticity has risen, there are 35 million unemployed, and another 15 million underemployed. The reason is the slow rate of economic growth.

The meeting considers that the labour market flexibility approach of Bretton Woods Institutions and developed countries is detrimental to international labour and not conducive to sustained economic growth. It is meant for redistribution of profit.

In opposition to such an approach we believe that a strategy for productive and remunerative jobs that eliminates poverty and addresses the structural inequity in the world economic system will generate effective demand for sustainable growth.

The meeting expresses concern at the attempt of linking trade and investment issues, which gives foreign investment and right of 'national treatment,' and unrestricted right of investment. It rejects the very notion of national treatment' and 'establishment' as rights. Such issues can only be the subject of bilateral agreement which is beneficial both to the investor and the home-country.

The underlying assumption of the role of TNCs as leading agents of economic development is based on unsubstantiated generalization. The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) is designed to benefit the TNC's through safeguarding their technological advantage and enabling maximum flexibility to restructure production in accordance with their shifting global priority and attempts to enforce such investment through a cross-retaliatory trade related settlement mechanism.

The meeting views the sustained pressure to put the trade and investment link on the agenda of the WTO as a renewed drive of the developed countries to enable the TNC's to dominate the economic, cultural and political life of the majority of people.

The meeting calls upon the developing countries to close their ranks and strive for an equitable and transparent trading order. It demands from the governments meeting at the Singapore WTO Ministerial Meeting to address the following concerns:

Derogation of Multi-Fibre Agreement from the essential principle of WTO, the difficulties and obstruction that the Textile Monitoring Body (TMB) is facing for reaching consensus and the restrictive bilateral agreement under the transitional safeguard measures.

For accelerated measures of access in areas of textile, clothing, footwear, fishing and fishery products etc.

Assessment of impact and the problems faced by the developing countries in fulfilling their obligations and required compensatory measures.

Fulfilling the notification requirements under WTO which secure transparency.

Trade distortion because of fluctuating exchange rates, low commodity prices and debt burden.

High tariff peaks and tariff escalation.

Anti-dumping.

We affirm that the South Asian Countries, despite political differences and apprehensions, should build a regional economic block to facilitate equitable trade and economic relations within this block and negotiate the imposed globalisation from the position of collective strength.

This meeting reiterates its opposition to linkages of environmental and labour standards to trade through the institutional mechanism of WTO, otherwise known as the social clause. It affirms the principle of universal labour rights and calls for a wide discussion for a comprehensive international codification and implementation mechanism. The meeting expresses concern at the anti-labour stance of the South Asian States and reaffirms its commitment towards effective enforcement of labour rights at national level.

We continue to oppose changes in national laws, procedure and practice required from obligations as mandated by TRIPs.

We resolve to campaign:

a) On the proposed MAI and other issues arising from the WTO ministerial meeting which will affect labour through educative consultations and workshops among TUs, NGOs and concerned citizens;

b) For the adoption of the ILO convention based on the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and UN Code of Conduct for TNCs'.

c) For the alliance of workers of TNCs at a South Asian level.

We believe it is possible for the international economic system to have the ability to meet the legitimate needs of people for sustained full employment and productive work and we are committed to struggling for such a world order.

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