New Zealand’s Council of Trade Unions (CTU) has written to the country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, and the Minister for Trade, Damien O’Connor, calling on them to halt the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement.
“If New Zealand does so, then we will be recognising the military junta in Myanmar as legitimate,” CTU Secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges said.
“We support the government taking quick steps to suspend all high-level contact with Myanmar and imposing a travel ban on its military leaders the week immediately after the coup.
“It is consistent and appropriate that the New Zealand government does not ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement as this agreement includes trade with Myanmar.”
Military junta must not be legitimised
Ansell-Bridges said the CTU had called on the government not to ratify the trade agreement as it would recognise the military junta in Myanmar as legitimate.
The New Zealand union movement had deep ties to the union movement in Myanmar and was hearing regular first-hand accounts of some of the atrocities that are occurring, she noted.
“New Zealand must do all we can to demonstrate that we do not endorse or legitimise the military junta and we must also encourage other countries engaged in the RCEP trade agreement to do the same,” she stated.
RCEP is the largest trade agreement in the world and includes China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the ASEAN countries (including Myanmar).
Earlier this month, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) expressed similar concerns to the Australian Government at a Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee inquiry into Myanmar.
Workers at the forefront of disobedience
“Workers and trade unions are at the forefront of the civil disobedience movement protesting for an end to the military regime and we stand with them in solidarity,” ACTU President Michele O’Neil said.
“Workers … are being targeted by the military junta – workers have been killed, arrested and intimidated for participating in peaceful protests and strikes; 16 unions and workers’ organisations have been declared illegal; and many union leaders are being hunted by the military and have been forced into hiding.
“The Morrison Government should be introducing sanctions and suspending ties with this brutal dictatorship – not deepening ties through a new trade agreement.”
According to a report by news agency Reuters, the violence in Myanmar has drawn strong condemnation from Western countries and unprecedented criticism from several members of ASEAN, despite a bloc principle of not interfering in each other’s internal affairs.