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A report on the “Reconciling Trade & Human Rights” conference, released Sept. 7, provides insights into how labour rights are threatened by global trade pacts and the ‘liberalization’ of world markets.

Public services that have an impact on the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to water, will be negatively affected if there is a combination of pressures from the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank, and the WTO (World Trade Organization) on countries that are subject to loan conditionalities,” said keynote speaker Martin Khor, director of the Third World Network in Malaysia.

Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), developing countries had considerable flexibility concerning industrial tariffs,” Khor said, “but proposals being negotiated in the Doha Round will subject those countries to drastic tariff cuts, significantly curtailing their prospects for industrial development. Yet rich countries had very high tariffs when they were developing their own industries.”

In a workshop on labour rights and trade, the Canadian Labour Congress noted that “Labour markets are one of the last frontiers of liberalization, and the rights of increasing numbers of migrant workers are not being sufficiently protected.”

Workshop participants concluded that the labour movement must demand ‘core labour standards’ in a ‘holistic approach’ that will establish “the right to work and the full range of human rights of all workers.”

Posted to the Canadian Centre for International Cooperation web site, the report offers the proceedings of the May 2007 conference. The CCIC and Rights and Democracy sponsored the conference.