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20 Jul 2022

Michelle Russell, Just Style

Myanmar: Unions calls for EU to immediately suspend Everything But Arms trade agreement

Unions have called for the European Union (EU) to suspend the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement with Myanmar, given the garment industry remains “a vital source of foreign exchange” for the regime.

In a further call for the EU to “take stronger action” against the military junta in Myanmar – a key sourcing destination for many European clothing brands – IndustriAll Global Union says “there is no way to do business in Myanmar without doing harm to the people and workers”.

“We are urging the European Union to immediately suspend the EBA arrangement with Myanmar,” says Luc Triangle, general secretary for IndustriAll Europe.

‘’The message from garment workers in Myanmar to the EU is clear. Take action, suspend the EBA agreement, and cut off vital funds to the terrible military junta. We expect the EU to act responsibly and to act now.’’

IndustriAll Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union say the EU’s EBA trade scheme provides Myanmar with beneficial trading tariffs, in “blatant disregard” of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences’ (GSP) own regulations, which state that beneficiary countries must respect the principles of fifteen core conventions on human and labour rights.

According to IndustriAll, most trade unions in Myanmar are banned, union leaders have been arrested or are in hiding. It says the jobs facilitated by EBA are “in no way decent jobs”, respecting fundamental labour standards, and IndustriAll’s affiliate, Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), compares the conditions to modern slavery.


“Myanmar is facing profound and well-documented violations of UN and ILO Conventions included in the GSP/EBA regulations, by multinational companies and brands, among which 61 EU well-known fashion brands,” says Khaing Zar, IWFM president.


According to IndustriAll, the garment industry remains a vital source of foreign exchange for the regime. IndustriAll’s campaign demands that brands cease production in Myanmar, pointing out the discrepancy between their immediate withdrawal from Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, and their continued presence in Myanmar.

The union says that despite the human rights situation in Myanmar since the coup in February 2021, most garment brands continue to source from the country; it believes often in breach of their own codes of practice.

“The brands claim their presence does not benefit the military and provides employment, but they provide important foreign exchange, as well as income to the regime in the form of taxes and duties,” the union explains.