Assistant to Permanent Secretary of Labour Joins High-Level Policy Dialogue on Labour and Environment

Tuesday, 20 August 2019
          Assistant to the Permanent Secretary of Labour Mrs. Phattana Phanfak joined the High - Level Policy Dialogue on Labour and Environment in Free Trade Agreements, organized by the ASEAN Secretariat between August 15-16, 2019. The event took place at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia. The meeting had 3 main objectives which are 1) to create awareness and understanding of the new issues discussed, namely labour and the environment, proposed to be in the negotiations on free trade agreements (FTA) in the ASEAN region 2) to create a forum for dialogue among senior ASEAN officials and 3) to create a model that has the potential and joint discussions in the future between labour, the environment and trade economy.
          On August 15, 2019, representative of the ASEAN Secretariat provided foundational information about FTAs and the link between trade, labour, and environmental objectives. ASEAN member countries participated in a group discussion to exchange experiences on bilateral and multilateral FTA negotiations. The first discussion was around the connection between FTAs and environmental issues. The panelists consisted of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The second panel discussion was a link between the FTA and labour provisions, which Mrs. Pattana Phanthak was invited to conduct. There were participants in talks with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, and Brunei. The discussion included experience of the ASEAN member countries in negotiating the FTA agreements, whereby many labour issues were set as conditions under the agreement, especially the protection of fundamental rights of workers, reflecting the main ILO convention, including the elimination of forced labour, child labour, non-discrimination in employment and freedom of association and the right to negotiate. It also takes into account the quality of life of workers in the wages of workers and occupational safety and health, for example.
          On August 16, 2019, the Assistant to the Permanent Secretary of Labour joined a breakout session to brainstorm ASEAN's direction in negotiating FTAs, when it is necessary to include labour provisions in the content of the agreement. All member countries were concerned about the compliance with international labour standards, which is a matter that is often proposed as a condition in the agreement. In particular, were the countries that have not ratified the 8 main ILO conventions. The meeting agreed to have the ASEAN Secretariat study or compile information on the readiness of member countries in terms of legislation and ratification of the 8 conventions, protection of rights and quality of life of workers. The meeting provided an understanding of guiding principles in FTAs and participating in negotiating FTAs on labour chapters, whereby ASEAN will have to determine the common ground acceptable to member states, to be completed before joining the FTAs negotiations.
Division of Public Relations/
Information by ASEAN Unit, Bureau of International Cooperation
20 August 2019