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EU directs Myanmar to update progress on resolving workers abuses by September


European Union has directed Myanmar to update it the progress in resolving the conflict in northern Rakhine and other rights abuses, a move essential for the Southeast Asian country to keep its trade preferences with the world’s largest trading bloc by mid-September.

Brussels has requested Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to submit a written response on the extent to which it is working towards improving human and labour rights standards, according to EU Ambasosador Kristian Schmidt.

The European Union is currently considering the option of triggering a six-month review process on whether to strip Myanmar of its “Everything But Arms” status following accusations against the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) by UN officials and NGOs of persecuting Muslims in northern Rakhine with “genocidal intent” in 2017. Myanmar has denied the accusations.

The 2017 Tatmadaw crackdown in northern Rakhine drove hundreds of thousands of mostly stateless Muslims out of Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar returned to the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences in 2013 and its garment industry has benefited from its tariff-free access to the Single Market.

In 2019, Myanmar’s exports to the bloc - of which textiles make up a key segment - amounted to €2.8 billion (US$3.2 billion). Trade sanctions from Brussels, if enacted, are expected to heavily hit the apparel sector and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.