Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2005-05-12-Speech-4-013"

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"Mr President, clearly there are very real concerns about the impact of China on other players in the international trading system. We have already heard about the impact of the surge in textile imports on the EU and the devastation some EU producers face as a result. But let us not forget the impact on other developing countries. China’s deflationary pressure is already driving down wages right across the developing world and pushing global suppliers to reduce their workers’ rights and conditions in a bid to remain competitive at all costs. In the Philippines, for example, the government has ruled that its law on the minimum wage would not longer apply to the clothing industry. In Bangladesh, the government recently announced that it would increase the number of authorised overtime hours and reduce the restrictions on women’s night work. Chinese workers themselves do not necessarily have much to gain either, facing seven-day working weeks, very low wages, appalling health and safety hazards and no trade unions. We are looking here at a downward spiral of social and environmental standards; certainly minimum international standards might help stem that downward spiral. It is most important for this debate not just to focus on this or that sector, textiles today or footwear or machine components tomorrow. What we are looking at here is a systemic problem. It is a challenge posed by a country that has entered the international trading system not just with a comparative advantage but with potentially an almost absolute advantage in just about everything. It is complacent and patronising to assume that Europe and the West can keep a monopoly on innovation and high-tech while China simply does the manufacturing. Chinese graduates are also moving up the value-added chain. Very soon we may need to face the possibility that there could be very little that Europe could produce that China cannot produce more efficiently. The old assumption that while the EU and the industrialised countries keep the leading edge in knowledge-intensive industries while developing nations focus on lower-skill sectors, is now open to huge debate. The response to the challenge posed by China needs to include a thorough reassessment of the assumptions that have underpinned international trade theory up until now. We need to look again at the old ideas dating from David Ricardo onwards that comparative advantage always works in everybody’s best interests. I hope the Commission will act swiftly on textiles. I would also like to hear what the Commissioner plans to do about these longer-term systemic issues. We need a more balanced view than this oral question suggests. We should be looking at some of the impacts of liberalisation on China itself, because there is ample proof to suggest that many of the poorest people in China face significant losses themselves, particularly in the agricultural sector, as a result of China’s accession to the WTO. So let us have a more balanced view; a view that looks into the future as well."@en1

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