US trade preferences cut to affect 40,000 workers

US trade preferences cut to affect 40,000 workers

Labour networks will meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on March 3 to discuss ways to avert the US suspension of preferential trade privileges for Thailand under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

Speaking at a seminar on the issue on Saturday, Chalee Loysoong, deputy chairman of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee, said the suspension will affect at least 40,000 workers in several industries. Labour networks want the prime minister to negotiate with the US to restore the GSP eligibility as swiftly as possible.

On Oct 25 last year, the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced the suspension of $1.3 billion in trade preferences for Thailand under the GSP, set to take effect on April 25.

Citing inadequate protection of internationally recognised labour rights, particularly in the seafood and shipping industries, the USTR said the US would suspend trade preferences for 573 categories of Thai exports, which could face higher import tariffs of 4.5% compared to their current duty-free status.

Robert Pajkovski, director of the Solidarity Centre worker rights group, said Thailand is set to lose its GSP trade privileges because it has shown little progress in addressing violations of workers' rights.

The GSP suspension is designed to ratchet up pressure on the government to solve the problem, similar to a red card or a yellow card given by the European Commission to countries which fail to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he said.

If Thailand wants to regain its GSP privilege, it has to prove to the international community that it is committed to boosting workers' rights, he said.

This can be done by endorsing the International Labour Organisation Convention No.87, which recognises workers' freedom of association, and Convention No.98 which guarantees the right to collective bargaining, Mr Pajkovski said.

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