The European Parliament today endorsed a proposal to grant preferential trade access to Burma (under the generalised scheme of preferences) after a break of 16 years. The Greens criticised the decision, notably the absence of any conditions or time limits, in spite of the human rights situation in the country. After the vote, Green trade spokesperson Ska Keller stated:
"The decision to unconditionally reinstate preferential trade access to Burma is a mistake and could undermine reforms. While Burma has made a lot of progress with democratic reforms, there can be no guarantees that the government will continue the current fragile reform path without any pressure.
"In essence, the EU is giving the Burmese authorities a blank cheque in spite of ongoing human rights concerns in the country. It is particularly regrettable that MEPs failed to support a Green proposal calling for the EU Commission to present an assessment of the human rights situation in Burma before the end of the year and before readmitting the country to the GSP. Instead of rushing headlong into a business deal with a regime accused of war crimes and gross human rights violations, the EU should be taking a more measured approach.
"The GSP is but the first step of new trade relations with Burma. We have to ensure that a full human rights impact assessment is carried out before negotiations for an EU-Burma investment agreement start (possibly as soon as autumn). The interests of European companies in exploiting the abundant resources in Burma cannot lead to human rights concerns being brushed under the table."