Link trade negotiations to Human Rights


As the Asia-Pacific People’s Assembly (APPA) gets underway today in Malaysia, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (ICHRDD) calls on APEC governments to link all trade negotiations to human rights.

Montréal, November 10th, 1998 As the Asia-Pacific People’s Assembly (APPA) gets underway today in Malaysia, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (ICHRDD) calls on APEC governments to link all trade negotiations to human rights.

APPA, the official follow-up event to the APEC People’s Summit held in Vancouver last year during the APEC leaders meetings, is being held in Kuala Lumpur. Organizers are expecting more than 300 human rights and labour representatives to attend the two-day meeting focusing on the impact of globalization on human rights and democracy.

APEC, which represents 21 Pacific Rim economies, including Canada, has pledged complete free trade by 2020 but has consistently ignored fundamental human rights issues.

“Trade arrangements should be fully consistent with human rights obligations under international law,” said Warren Allmand, President of the International Centre. “In this, the 50th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, APEC governments should be reviewing their individual and collective action plans to ensure that all APEC activities are fully consistent with international agreements.”

Non-governmental organizations meeting in Kuala Lumpur have maintained that free and open societies do not automatically emerge with increased trade and investment liberalization. They are quick to point out that additional measures have always been necessary to turn the market into a force that actually benefits society. Those measures include workers’ rights, social justice and the equitable distribution of wealth.

“APEC cannot blindly pursue its liberalization agenda in the face of economic and social crisis in Asia,” Mr. Allmand said. “Trade development in the Asia-Pacific must be pursued within the context of human rights and democracy”.

APPA takes place within a tense political atmosphere in Malaysia where the Internal Security Laws have been in effect since September and have led to a rash of arrests including the imprisonment of the former Malaysian finance minister.

The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development is an independent and non-partisan Canadian institution with an international mandate, working with citizens and governments here and around the world to promote human rights and democratic development through dialogue, strategic interventions, advocacy and public education. Through its programme on human rights and globalization, the Centre co-sponsored the international labour forum at the Vancouver People’s Summit and is represented at the APPA meeting in Kuala Lumpur next week.