Tuesday, 4 September 2007

APEC must address the ugly faces of globalisation

Meeting for the 13th Asia Pacific Labour Network meeting, union leaders from the region sent a strong message to the upcoming APEC Leaders summit to be held from 7 to 9 September in Sidney, Australia. Rather than continuing to narrowly focus on trade and investment liberalisation, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation) must broaden its scope to deal with the economic and social realities of the majority of the people of the region. The Asia Pacific is on the brink of a jobs crisis, with lack of decent work opportunities as more people toil in the informal economy, inequality rises, social standards plummet, and millions of people leave their countries to seek a basic living. Yet APEC is addressing none of this, a trade union statement to the APEC meeting complains.

Unions believe that the APEC leaders must acknowledge the social dimensions within their agenda, and listen to the voice of workers and other citizens. While trade and finance ministers meet on a yearly basis, ministers responsible for labour, social protection and education have not met since 2001. The union leaders of the Asia Pacific have presented APEC with 11 concrete recommendations on how to make the cooperation broader and more relevant. The question now is whether they are willing to listen.

Students' protests in Sidney

"People trafficking, the sex trade and the exploitation and abuse of workers, especially migrant workers, are the ugly faces of globalisation. These are important issues and should not be left off the APEC agenda", said Sharan Burrow, President of both the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). According to trade unions, today 1.36 million people in the Asia Pacific region are victims of trafficking across borders for sexual or economic exploitation, with children accounting for up to 50 % of these victims.

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