United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai yesterday announced immediate suspension of all US engagement with Myanmar (Burma) under the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). USTR will consider the situation there with respect to global worker rights eligibility criterion as Congress considers reauthorisation of the generalised system of preferences (GSP) programme.
The suspension will remain in effect until the return of a democratically-elected government, according to an official press release.
“The United States supports the people of Burma in their efforts to restore a democratically elected government, which has been the foundation of Burma’s economic growth and reform,” said Tai.
“The United States strongly condemns the Burmese security forces’ brutal violence against civilians. The killing of peaceful protestors, students, workers, labor leaders, medics, and children has shocked the conscience of the international community. These actions are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the efforts of the Burmese people to achieve a peaceful and prosperous future,” she said.
Reports that the military has targeted Burma’s trade unions and workers for their role in the pro-democracy protests raise serious concerns about worker rights protections, USTR said.
The United States had previously suspended Myanmar’s GSP benefits in 1989 on worker rights grounds, following the violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations and strikes in 1988. Myanmar’s GSP beneficiary status was reinstated in November 2016.