by Verna Dinah Q. Viajar
Manila – Trade unionists and NGO workers from Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong convened for two days to discuss strategies and actions in time for the 6th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong on December this year. Global Network-Asia (GN-Asia), an alliance of trade unions and NGOs, organized the seminar and workshop last 7-8 December participated in by 50 trade union and NGO leaders from the five countries.
In line with GN-Asia’s initiatives for the year 2004, the regional seminar-workshop intended to build-up linkages with partner organizations in the Southeast Asian region and to strategize the alliance’s engagement on the upcoming WTO negotiations this year. The participants were able to share their country perspectives and experiences relating to the rapid economic liberalization of the region brought about by free trade agreements at the multilateral (WTO), bilateral (FTAs) and regional (AFTA) levels. Concrete actions and agenda for engagements were forged on these three levels by intensifying initiatives in the areas of education/information, mobilization and organizing.
Plans are also underway in organizing the regional delegation to the 6th WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in the end of this year. The organizations present also intended to mount concerted mobilization actions and campaigns from this time on. The Secretary-General of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Elizabeth Tang, was present in the seminar to coordinate the participation of Global Network in Hong Kong. HKCTU is now organizing the umbrella international committee that coordinates the participation of social movements and civil society groups on December.
Before the seminar-workshop ended, a dialogue between Philippine government officials and the Filipino trade unions was conducted. The dialogue highlighted the issues and concerns of workers relating to the on-going bilateral free trade agreements and WTO trade negotiations wherein the Philippines is an active participant. The government panel was also made aware of the initiatives of trade unions and civil society groups on the WTO negotiations at the national and regional levels.
The Filipino trade unions present in the seminar-workshop come from the service, cement, transport, banking, seafaring, broadcast and public sectors. They were joined by the Thai Labour Campaign from Thailand, Labour Education Center of Indonesia and the Cambodian trade unionists on tourism and service industries. Among the NGOs and policy/advocacy organizations present were the Focus on the Global South, Institute for Policy and Governance and the Center for Popular Empowerment. The seminar-workshop was jointly organized by the Global Network-Asia, Labor Education and Research Network and the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL). Funding was provided for by the Southeast Asian Committee on Advocacy for WTO-related activities (SEACA).