asia-post_v02-02

It’s been over a year since the death of over 1,100 garment workers in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh focused world attention on labour standards in the emerging economies of Asia.

The tragedy led to calls for greater corporate responsibility and stronger efforts from importing countries to insist on better labour conditions. Yet a year on, has much changed?

On the anniversary of the disaster, the International Trade Union Confederation said Bangladeshi workers “still face face enormous obstacles and even violence and intimidation when they try to get respect for their basic rights.”

Elsewhere in Asia, the international labour movement also sees serious problems. Eight Asian members of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) got the lowest ranking for peacetime countries in the ITUC’s 2014 “world’s worst countries for workers” report. None made it into the highest category.

Ahead of October’s ASEM summit in Milan, should European countries be doing more to promote labour standards in Asia? Or, is it better for outsiders to mind their own business and allow Asian nations to find domestic solutions? Will the market eventually bring improvements anyway?

Our sister think-tank, Friends of Europe, held their Asia Programme conference earlier this month, bringing together high-level speakers from Europe and Asia to discuss the relationship. We took contributors’ questions on labor standards and human rights to some of the experts and policy makers attending.

Maarten thinks there is an international ‘race to the bottom’ for cheaper wages that has led to extreme situations of poverty and abuse. He hopes that organised labour movements in Asia and other parts of the world will start to drive up both wages and labour standards. Is that likely? This is the response from Sok Siphana, Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia and a Senior ASEM Official:

Contributor Aleksander believes the EU should push harder to ensure that economic development around the world is tied to greater respect for human rights. We asked David O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at the European External Action Service (EEAS), if he agreed:

With an Asian perspective, here’s a reply to Aleksander from Yeo Lay Kwee, Director of the EU Centre at the National University of Singapore:

What’s your view? Should Europe insist that international trade deals include provisions on labour standards and human rights? Do differences in labour protection give Asia an unfair economic advantage over Europe? Is Europe really in a position to lecture on labour rights, given its record levels of unemployment? Is the fast-pace of Asian economic development bringing improvements anyway, without the need for outside interference? If you want to share your questions and opinions, let us know in the form below and we’ll get reactions from policy-makers and experts.



40 comments Post a commentcomment


  1. avatar
    Aleksandros Ho Megas

    Haha, such hypocrisy!
    What about European economy that supports and creates more demand for such Chinese “standards”?
    Besides No need to stretch toward Far East, just check, for example, Romania and Bulgaria labour standards…

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Mind our own business!! Their culture is different than ours. We can not impose our ways on everybody else! The only way to influence change in other regions is through business and trade or immigration! When we go over there to do business, offer the staff we employ the rights that we offer our own. When they come over here to work offer them the same rights and so when they go back to their countries they will know and compare the difference!! It is up to them then to push and demand change in their countries! The trouble is, corruption and greed is a human, global phenomenon and when our businessmen go over there to do business with them, instead of promoting our own values, they exploit the local ones for their benefit and even worse, they try to imitate them and introduce them here in Europe!! It is perhaps up to the EU Commission and European Parliament to prevent that from happening and place tougher controls on businesses plus cooperate with third countries in order to stop the exploitation! But they can not impose anything, only sign agreements through trade and mutual interests!!

  3. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Mind our own business!! Their culture is different than ours. We can not impose our ways on everybody else! The only way to influence change in other regions is through business and trade or immigration! When we go over there to do business, offer the staff we employ the rights that we offer our own. When they come over here to work offer them the same rights and so when they go back to their countries they will know and compare the difference!! It is up to them then to push and demand change in their countries! The trouble is, corruption and greed is a human, global phenomenon and when our businessmen go over there to do business with them, instead of promoting our own values, they exploit the local ones for their benefit and even worse, they try to imitate them and introduce them here in Europe!! It is perhaps up to the EU Commission and European Parliament to prevent that from happening and place tougher controls on businesses plus cooperate with third countries in order to stop the exploitation! But they can not impose anything, only sign agreements through trade and mutual interests!!

  4. avatar
    Nicu Oprisan

    There are some techniques used by the B Corp’s in the US exactly to encourage higher labor standards: http://www.bcorporation.net/
    BTW… We have no problems concerning labor rights violations in Romania.

  5. avatar
    Cla Carr

    We can decrease ours, simply like this !!! :-D!!… isn’t it what we are trying to do with the “reform program” on job ?

  6. avatar
    ironworker

    It shouldn’t be that hard. Give power to the people and create Union Movements. On the other hand. Asians are not quite the world standard in workers benefits and they seems to agree with this reality. It’s just pointless to help people who didn’t ask for help. Let them grow up, give them time considering circumstances.

  7. avatar
    Rudi Spoljarec

    By infiltrating parliamentary democracy and legal rules which couldn’t be avoided with corruption

  8. avatar
    Alex Lexva

    if they compete with european products on labour abuse, yes EU should do more

  9. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Why Asia? Economics of scale- markets-off shoring- re shoring- circumvention- fiddling- footprints- endless…..

    Friends of Europe, I received a request from the man on the moon, complaining that the earthlings meddle in his space, leaving lots of debris and he loses his unobtrusive view of earth! Did he say meddle?

    Back on earth:

    http://www.citylab.com/work/2012/03/how-us-companies-decide-where-build-their-chinese-factories/1412/

    http://www.ban.org/2012/01/16/ngo-releases-2011-list-of-top-eu-companies-sending-toxic-ships-to-south-asia/

  10. avatar
    Translatecommunicateforyou Translatecommunicateforyou

    Before the EU can mix and mingle and talk about the labour market in Asia, they should focus on getting the labour market in Europe right. Which no offence they have failed many years in doing it right in the first place. Now back to the Asia market. You should be focusing on the situations similar to the Asian market here in EU. If you need an expert I can help you with the Asia market but before doing that as the EU you should get the EU market right. And besides before the EU has something to say in Asia you need to follow certain cultural procedures and business practises and no offence it does not look like that has been done either by th EU. Or am I wrong here?

  11. avatar
    Jokera Jokerov

    They have the right to live their way. If the European way was the right way, why are we buyng more and more of their products and they buy less and less Euro products?

  12. avatar
    Marcel

    And whose gonna tell people around European countries that they cannot have so many cheap gizmos, cheap clothes and cheap toys for their kids anymore?

    Or maybe the EU actively aids and abets corporations to drive down wages throughout European countries, which is easily done if you quickly increase the pool of people vying for the same jobs. Corporations win, people lose.

    We all know who’se side the EU is on in this, and it ain’t on our side.

  13. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    1…Force EU companies operating in Asia to adopt [under penalty of fines] EU standards.

    2…Concentrate EU offshore-ing in those Asian countries that adopt [under penalty of fines] EU standards – those Asian countries that don’t will simply NOT get the EU work.

    3…Mount information campaigns in the EU to highlight/embarrass those Asian countries/Asian products that do not comply with EU standards.

    • avatar
      crayven

      I agree.
      Heh i thought you didn’t like regulation? xD

  14. avatar
    Josiana Carneiro

    Yes, the European countries should be doing more to promote labour standards in Asia. We are buying from them, so it is also our responsability to ensure that the products we buy and the conditions under which we buy them do not imply exploitation of workers, child labour or any degrading working conditions. It’s not OK to wilfully ignore what happened until the products got to us alleging it’s their territory, their rules. If we know of the abuse and do nothing, we are sharing some of the responsibility.

  15. avatar
    Bazyli Kowalski

    Why should we give a shit? We should mind our own, european business and buy things made in europe.

    • avatar
      Marcel

      It’ll do wonders for price inflation, that’s for sure.

      It will not be so good for the ‘cheap stuff army’, people who don’t like to pay too much for gizmos or clothes.

  16. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Did anybody notice the magic of comments appearing than shortly afterwards disappearing? This article showed over 20 than fell back to 17.
    Surprise? Manipulation?- (innocent) intent?- gone on leave? Any explanations? Silence! My comment is kept moderated since the 6th. Interesting this EC/EU sponsored democracy!

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @EU Reform- Proactive
      If you think DE is bad try http://one-europe.info/ it has no issues with presenting inaccurate information such as stating that only 7.6% of the UK population is of foreign.

      When the incorrect figures were challenged the post in question was deleted.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Tarquin, thanks- is that modern marketing or what- lectured & applied nowadays?

      ….you may have noticed, I dare the DE & put a “registration number” in front of my commenters name! Equal “partnerships” depend on trust & honesty- if one detects shenanigan’ism http://www.memidex.com/shenanigans the perpetrator deserve to be treated by the broom!

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @EU Reform- Proactive
      Interesting point: The origin of the word Shenanigan relates to the Gaelic word “Seanchaí”.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      @EU Reform- Proactive

      No magic involved, just old-fashioned spam. There were a couple of spam comments that made it through the spam filter, so we removed them from the site.

      Also, your comment has now been approved by moderators. Several of our moderators are away for the summer break, so there may be a slight delay before new comments can be approved (and comments with links are always held for moderation). However, if you have any problems you can also contact us at info@debatingeurope.eu

  17. avatar
    Paul X

    It’s time this irrelevant question disappeared, there is nothing the EU can do.
    Despite what the Europhiles like to believe, Europe isn’t the hub of the universe. It can place whatever taxes, tariffs etc it wants on Asian goods but it will make not one iota of difference. There will always be a market for cheap goods and the only thing the EU can do is make things more expensive for the people of Europe
    …..unfortunately this is exactly the sort of the thing the Euro-elite will do. Their whole existence is just a drain on peoples money so it matters not to them the cost to the people so long as they can sit smugly in their Brussels restaurants eating fois gras and slurping expensive wine discussing how much they are doing to improve working conditions in countries the other side of the world

  18. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    Debating Europe

    The European Parliament claimed a ‘Slightly higher election turnout averted a ?big disaster?.

    will you now declare that because the real figures show a lower election turnout it was in fact a ?big disaster? for your European experiment ?

    They claimed that the increase in turnout was because of the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ process justifying the selection for Juncker as Commission president, it clearly did not, so where is democracy ?

    I look forward to your reply.

    http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-elections-2014/its-official-last-eu-election-had-lowest-ever-turnout-307773

    • avatar
      Paul X

      What is interesting is if you follow your link then click on the further link to the Parliament website you see the voting trends since 1979.

      The UK has never had any more than a 38.5% turnout and in most elections it has not been much over 30%……….just how long does it take for it to sink in to the UK politicians and the EU-Elite that we really do not give a toss about the European project?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Ivan Burrows
      Thanks for the great link.

      In truth the web page presents a truly DISTURBING indeed FRIGHTENING portrait of pro-EU zealotry.

      At the very least Jaume Duch Guillot should apologise if NOT he should be sacked!

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Ivan, PaulX & Tarquin

      I only consider 3 options/parties required on an EU level: pro- anti or reform. All other variances (green, red, black, left, right, up, down, etc) all form part of the three somehow- since we talk EU direction & global. One need not to duplicate 28 local parliamentary parties in an EU! It than becomes a chicken run or zoo! Any thoughts?

  19. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    @DE – Thank you for above given explanations! Reasons of family matters are understood! Probably as EU employees you may have a difficult task with us! Myself & maybe others would like to interact directly with a responsible EU spokesperson “online”- and not “via- via”. Could “online” mean direct or indirect? The DE states:
    .
    “We want to connect European citizens and politicians together in an online debate.” Should that not be possible or be misunderstood, please consider revising this statement and also attach T’s & C’s avoiding ambiguities. As long as critique of the EU is not considered spam!

    The habit to attach links is to enhance on a subject under discussion- for those interested in the greater picture- essential for the limited space available. Grazie!

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      @EU Reform- Proactive

      We aren’t EU employees, and criticising the EU is definitely not considered spam. We regularly receive critical comments and we publish interviews with politicians who are both for and against the EU.

      Links are also allowed, but any post containing links is automatically held for moderation before publication because sometimes these links go to spam, phishing or malware sites.

      We appreciate your contribution, but please keep the comments on topic. If you have any further comments not related to the topic being discussed, please send them to us via info@debatingeurope.eu

  20. avatar
    Dim Zev

    I expect answers from the case Ares (2014) 1502108.
    On 12 May 2014, registered the above case involving questions-clarification for start and functioning IACS system acting cross-checks for payments rural EU support.
    Because the competent European Commission not replied , i resorted on 11 July 2014 to the Ombudsman 01253/2014/ANA to mediate to answer my questions.
    So far I have not gotten any response.
    Is this ordinary for Europe ?
    http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/direct-support/iacs/index_en.htm
    http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/cap-funding/audit/pdf/2007_en.pdf

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Dim Zev

      …….desperate & angry for being ignored? Why not try DE’s advice & ask them if they could give you a lead- using: info@debatingeurope.eu – Otherwise get on your horse, bicycle or helicopter to the EU in Brussels, known office block, floor, room number & known name! Than, knock- knock who’s there & see! Maybe it’s a one way computerized cyber office?

  21. avatar
    crayven

    Simple.
    Impose restrictions on all imported goods into the EU that do not adhere to EU standards of worker rights, safety, environmental regulations etc.
    China pollutes like crazy and has slave workers so it would be first to fall to our embargos.

    Double bonus:
    a) we don’t have to buy their crap and we can make it ourselves – creating jobs
    b) we support emancipation of workers in Asia and an increase in their living standard which will bring production prices in line with ours.

  22. avatar
    Shubha

    There is a lot both can learn form each other. However the biggest challenge and advantage both is the informal sector in Asian cities. We need to accept and allow the informal sector to be given space under regulations of decent work and increase the economic capacity of such people since the gap between rich and poor is ever increasing. Minimal wages are not enough we also need to curb accumulation of extreme wealth in the hands of few people and adopt cooperative economic systems, than capitalist, at least for the small and medium businesses to thrive.

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