US will not use labour standards to hinder developing countries : Wolf

Asia Society business conference ——————————–

ASSISTANT US Trade Representative Ira Wolf said yesterday that the United States would not use Western labour standards to blunt the competitive edge of developing countries.

“We have no intention of using the issue of labour standards that our trading partners in Asia might have because of relative wage differentials,” he said at The Asia Society’s business conference.

Asean has opposed the protectionist attempts by the US and other developed countries to impose labour standards and practices on developing countries.

But Mr Wolf, defending the US stand, said: “Our concern is with basic workers’ rights.” He added that the World Trade Organisation’s preparatory committee would put labour standards on its agenda.

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Industry and Trade, Dr Hartarto Sastrosoenarto, yesterday reiterated Asean’s position rejecting the linkage of trade to social issues and labour standards.

Mr Wolf said Washington’s policies on human rights and trade issues were longstanding when some American participants criticised the Clinton administration for pursuing “inscrutable” and “inconsistent” policies towards Asia.

“There is consistency and continuity in the type of concerns. I don’t see the contradiction,” he said.

In his address, he said that Washington supported a strong and prosperous China, but stressed that Beijing must be more transparent and adhere to international rules on trade.

“China’s trading partners, the Chinese people, and the Chinese economy will all benefit if China plays the game by the same rules as everyone,” he said.

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