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Trumka: Lifting Restrictions on U.S. Investments in Burma ‘Premature’

The U.S. government’s decision today to ease restrictions on U.S. investments in Burma is “premature and poorly thought through,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Lifting investment sanctions on a nation where forced labor and other human rights violations continue may, says Trumka:

undermine progress toward political reforms in Burma, rather than encourage movement toward democracy.

Until recent elections, Burma was ruled for decades by a repressive military regime. Many officials and others connected to the years of harsh rule remain in positions of power and influence and those people and the companies and entities in which they are engaged with must be identified, says Trumka.

Moving to lift sanctions without binding standards on corporations and mandatory reporting requirements will only increase the risks that new U.S. business activity will directly benefit individuals and companies who are responsible for human rights abuses, who contribute to corruption or who otherwise obstruct political reform.

Also, says Trumka, forced labor also remains a serious problem in Burma, despite recent legal reforms and the U.S. government should fully implement the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) three-year plan:

to ensure that the Burmese government takes all steps necessary to eradicate the very serious problem of forced labor without further delay. 

Read his full statement here.

In June the ILO voted to reinstate Burma as a member because the recently elected president and parliament are moving ahead with some democratic reforms. Burmese human rights activist and member of Parliament Aung San Suu Kyi—who was kept under house arrest for 15 years before her release in 2010—welcomed the move but told the ILO  

  • Burma still does not have an ILO-compliant legal framework for freedom of association or adequate protection for Burmese workers from corrupt government officials and the industrial bottom feeders that want to exploit cheap labor and extract resources in Burma.
  • The records of companies seeking to invest in Burma must be scrutinized so the exploitation of workers and resources can be avoided.
  • Burma needs laws covering outside investment.
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