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EU rejects Uzbekistan trade deal over child labour concerns


Summary of story from RFE/RL, October 6, 2011

European Union (EU) lawmakers have rejected a trade deal that would have made it easier for Uzbekistan to export textiles to Europe, citing objections to the country’s continued use of forced child labour in its cotton harvests (see WVoN coverage).

The author of the motion, French Member of [the European] Parliament, Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, said: ” The European Union cannot accept such a practice and the issue is now very clear without any ambiguities and I am very satisfied with that.”

Uzbekistan is the world’s fifth-largest cotton producer and third-largest exporter. If the deal had gone through, the country’s tariffs would have been signifcantly lowered.

The European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee said that it wants verification that children are not used during the Uzbek cotton harvest before it would include Uzbek textiles in a trade agreement.

It is estimated that between 200,000 and 2 million children aged 9-15 work in Uzbek cotton fields.

The Uzbek government insists that the work is a family farm activity and denies the use of forced labour but will not allow international observers in the country during the harvest season.

“The children do not work in small family businesses,” Ms Kiil-Nielsen said. “It is really organized, forced labor. They transport the children, they put them on the cotton fields and [the children] live at the site in deplorable conditions.”

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