Chee to speak at LI Congress on trade and workers’ rights

Singapore Democrats

Dr Chee Soon Juan will be speaking at the 59th Liberal International (Ll) Congress to be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands from 24-27 April 2014. He will be speaking in a session titled “Business, Trade and Human Rights”.$CUT$

Also on the panel are Mr Markus Loening, former German Federal Commissioner for Human Rights; Dr Hakima El Haite, Moroccan Minister for the Environment; and Mr Gerard Oonk, Director of the India Committee of the Netherlands (which is part of the official “Stop Child Labour” NGO Coalition Campaign in the Netherlands); and Mr Jef Wintermans, Director of MODINT, a trade association for textile manufacturers.

The session will discuss balancing sustainable economic growth with the promotion and protection of human rights as well as the advancement of ethical trading and business practices on a regional and international level.

Dr Chee will highlight the effects of past free trade agreements such as the one Singapore signed with the US and how it has affected Singaporean workers. Income inequality has widened in Singapore and low-income workers continue to be left without minimum wage protection.

The US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA) was touted to be a job creator when it was signed in 2003 (pictured, right). However, most of the jobs created have gone to foreigners brought in enmasse by the PAP Government.

This has, in turn, suppressed wages for Singaporeans, caused the cost of living to escalate, and the quality of life to deteriorate.

The SDP had warned before the USSFTA was signed that because of the non-inclusion of clauses to protect workers’ rights and the lack of independent labour unions in Singapore, Singaporean workers’ conditions would worsen as a consequence.

The European Union (EU) will also be signing a free trade agreement with Singapore. It has completed its negotiations with Singapore on a free trade agreement which needs to be ratified by its member states. The document does not include provisions that explicitly commit to the protection of workers’ rights (see here and here).

The SDP Secretary-General will call on the EU to be mindful not to exploit Singaporean workers. The income inequality generated in Singapore by free trade pacts without addressing workers’ wages, coupled with the undemocratic nature of our political system, is ultimately unsustainable and will cause intractable problems for Singapore.

We will post Dr Chee’s speech (updated 29 April 2014) following the conference.

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