Ministry denies that local fish firms use child labour
Trade official claims US accusation is based on incorrect information
The Commerce Ministry has vehemently denied a US allegation that the Thai fishery industry employs children and foreign labourers, an accusation that could devastate export growth in this sector.
After a meeting with US officials on relations under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), Piramol Charoenpao, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said Thailand needed to clear up this issue, as the US had based its stance on untrue information. The allegations had damaged the image of the fishery industry, she said.
The United States has claimed that the Thai frozen-foods industry has employed children and exploited alien workers, which has resulted in a campaign for American consumers to boycott Thai frozen foods.
Piramol said the allegation had seriously affected export growth. To create clear understanding among US traders and consumers, Thailand invited giant importers from that country such as Cosco to a meeting on the practices of the frozen-food industry.
Thailand insists the industry employs labour based on fair practice and also provides a good income to workers - despite repeated media reports of abuses.
Thailand's position is that the child-labour claims arose from misinterpretation of a video showing parents bringing their children with them to their workplace.
Piramol pointed out that Thailand is currently facing a labour shortage. Enterprises have to pay foreign workers well and provide good benefits.
She expects US importers will accept Thailand's explanation. It is ready to provide evidence of its fair treatment of workers.
The United States is one of the largest import markets for Thai fishery products, particularly shrimp. More than half of Thai shrimp is shipped to the US each year.
At the same TIFA meeting, Thailand informed the US that the Kingdom would not rush into talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, pending a feasibility study that would take about a year, Piramol added.