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July 31, 2000
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'US pursues 'double standards' on labour law'

The United States has been pursuing 'double standards' in adopting labour law, noted economist Arvind Panagaria has said.

A once 'protectionist' country, it now preaches 'morality', he said.

In an interview during his visit to his home town, he said that in the US just 12 per cent of the labour is engaged in the organised sector and moreover there was no proper system for them to participate in the management.

Panagaria, who is the co-director at The Centre for International Economics at the Department of Economics, Maryland University, US, criticised the thrusting of the labour and environmental standards upon the developing countries, including India, by the developed nations. He suggested that both these issues should not be allowed to be included at the meeting of the World Trade Organisation proposed to be held at the year-end.

Pointing out that the developing countries have already received a setback on the issue of intellectual properties at the Uruguay talks, he said that now these countries should remain 'alert' to the 'gameplan' of the developed nations who wanted to connect the labour and environmental issues with trade to get rid of their internal problems.

''In India, human resources and cheap labour is the capital. However, the developed countries by raising the issues of labour laws and child labour want to weaken us in the field of economic development and international trade. This is a very serious matter and we should be careful in this regard," Panagaria said.

He said: "Though we should be a party to the ongoing process of globalisation, we must oppose the efforts to bring the labour laws issue on the WTO agenda.''

A majority of the economists in developing countries and a few experts in the developed nations feel that for labour-related affairs the appropriate forum is the International Labour Organisation and not the WTO, he added.

Referring to the environmental issue, he suggested that like varying labour laws, standards also should be different for various countries.

There should, however, be international co-operation and consent on the environmental issues that have global impact, Panagaria said, adding that the domestic environmental requirements should not be mixed with trade.

Citing the example of the chloro-fluorocarbons, he said that for about a century the developed countries have destroyed the environment in the name of development but now when the developing countries were marching ahead, they were talking of imposing environmental ban.



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