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6 Oct 2018

Ben Dunant, Frontier Myanmar

Myanmar: EU consideration of suspending trade privileges alarms garment sector & raises concerns regarding job losses

"EU trade privileges move alarms garment sector," 6 Oct 2018

A announcement by the European Union that it is considering suspending trade privileges for Myanmar because of alleged Tatmadaw atrocities in Rakhine State has alarmed garment firms, which say hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk. The move has also puzzled human rights activists and campaign groups, few of whom have lobbied for broad economic sanctions. EU trade commissioner Ms Cecilia Malmström [said[]... that the EU is imminently sending a mission to Myanmar to determine whether to begin a withdrawal process, which would include a six-month review window for Myanmar to demonstrate progress. Malmström cited the report of a United Nations Fact-Finding Mission, which outlined the “gravest crimes under international law” in Rakhine, as their motive for reviewing the trade privileges. Companies claim that blocking Myanmar’s access to the Everything But Arms programme... would pose an existential threat to Myanmar’s burgeoning garment sector... MGMA chairperson U Soe Myint told Frontier that, if European trade privileges are withdrawn, more than half of all garment workers could lose their jobs... A spokesperson... H&M, which entered Myanmar in 2013 and now sources from 40 factories employing 43,000 people, told Frontier that withdrawing privileges would be a big setback for the sector.

Burma Campaign UK director Mr Mark Farmaner was sharply critical of the EU move. “It is ridiculous that the EU has rejected sanctions against military owned companies, rejected banning all training of the military, won’t support a UN arms embargo, and won’t even support referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, but is considering imposing a kind of sanction which will mainly affect ordinary people."