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EU says to push labour issues in Asia trade talks

Written by: Staff
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BRUSSELS, Dec 5 (Reuters) Europe will push to include labour standards in new bilateral trade deals it is planning to negotiate with Asian countries, European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson said on Tuesday.

The EU's executive Commission is due to seek a mandate from governments around the bloc on Wednesday to launch negotiations for trade agreements with India, South Korea and countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

''I would like to see us make a step change in how we integrate decent work and the broader agenda of sustainable development into these bilateral agreements,'' Mandelson said in a speech given to a conference on labour issues in Brussels.

The EU sought unsuccessfully to include labour standards in the World Trade Organisation's Doha round of negotiations to free up global trade.

Developing countries, which have generally lower labour standards than in rich countries, blocked the idea, fearing the rules could be used to block their exports.

Mandelson said the EU would encourage trading partners to enforce labour rights and environmental standards.

''Transparency, through an independent mechanism, will also help us highlight areas where governments should take action against violations of basic rights,'' he said. ''We are also considering an incentives approach.'' The EU's Commission hopes to launch negotiations for the Asia trade deals early next year and hopes they will be broader in scope than the WTO's Doha round which focuses mostly on cutting tariffs and removing other barriers to trade.

The Doha round was suspended in July and risks being delayed by several years if there is no breakthrough in early 2007, negotiators have said.

REUTERS KR RS1846

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