March 26, 2014 00:00 By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The Commerce Ministry's Foreign Trade Department has undertaken steps to counter possible US trade sanctions after that country's Labour Department claimed that some Thai industries violated international standards by using child, forced or indentured l
The fishery, garment and sugar industries are at the top of the department’s damage-control agenda.
Surasak Riangkrul, director-general of the department, said it was working closely with other public and private organisations to alleviate the problem of abusive labour practices. These include the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Department of American and South Pacific Affairs), the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade of Thailand and associations representing the three targeted industries.
“Thailand aims to eradicate child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in those three industries, which account for 2.2 million workers and generate yearly income from exports of about US$6.45 billion, or about 1.2 per cent of the country’s GDP,” Surasak said.
According to the department, Thai exports to the United States are worth about $22 billion (Bt716 billion) per year, or 9.92 per cent of the total.
Fishing and related industries employ more than 1 million people, with export value to the US averaging more than $1.98 billion, 26.22 per cent of the total. The garment and related industries also employ more than a million, and their exports to the US average more than $9.28 billion, or 35 per cent. The sugar and related industries employ about 200,000 and exports to the US average more than $55 million, or 0.5 per cent.
Surasak said the close cooperation among so many government and non-government organisations clearly showed the country’s intention and determination to comply with international standards by eradicating child labour, forced labour and human trafficking from its industries once and for all. As a result, the public image of Thai products would be enhanced, generating confidence among trading partners and consumers on the country’s sensitivity and sincerity towards these issues.
Moreover, the Foreign Trade Department and the Office of Commercial Affairs at the Thai Embassy in the US will circulate information concerning the country’s progress to target groups including US administrators, NGOs, consumers, traders, and the American general public to generate clear understanding of Thailand’s position and its determination to resolve these issues, leading to the removal of Thai products from the US Department of Labour’s list of items that are deemed to violate labour laws.