US to suspend Thai trade preferences over labour rights issues


United States has planned the suspension of USD1.3 billion (39.2 billion baht) in trade preferences in Thailand, for failure to curb labour abuses in the fishery industry.  Thai government and business leaders are currently seeking clarification from the US government’s decision.

The suspension focuses on products for which the US is a relatively important market, but where Thailand accounts for a relatively small share of US imports, the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement.

Eligibility of all Thai seafood products for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) will be revoked due to “longstanding worker rights issues in the seafood and shipping industries”, the statement said.

Areas where Thailand was said to remain weak are protection for freedom of association and collective bargaining.

In a new report by rights group Greenpeace, human rights abuses in Thailand’s fishing industry persist on ships active in remote, unpoliced waters, despite international pressure.

In a year-long investigation published recently, Greenpeace reveals how Thai seafood industry still falls desperately short of international labour and fishing regulations, resulting in the exploitation of trafficked labourers.

The implementation of a series of reforms to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in November 2015 simply saw many Thai fishing vessels travel thousands of miles to the Saya de Malha Bank area off the coast of east Africa to avoid policing, Mark Dia, regional oceans coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told CNN.

Between 2014 and 2016, Greenpeace tracked Thailand’s rogue fishing vessels, finding that as many as 76 vessels with Thai flags had shifted their operations to the Saya de Malha Bank area.

CNN has reached out to the Thai government and is waiting for a response. (Source: Bangkok Post/CNN)