Why it is important for the EU to suspend the Everything But Arms in Myanmar

The EU is the 3rd largest trading partner of Myanmar (after China and Thailand) and the 3rd largest export market (following China and Thailand), absorbing 18.6% of its total exports.  Total EU imports from Myanmar in 2018 increased by 46.8% (compared to +56.7% in 2017), totaling around €2.3 billion. The EBA resulted in around €250 million import duty savings. The strong growth of imports from the country continued in the first seven months of 2019 (+35.5%). This growth is mainly driven by garments and footwear.  Imports of garment and footwear from Myanmar increased by 50.6% and made up nearly 80% of exports to the EU in 2018. In the first seven months of 2019, this growth continued at a similar rate (+44.3%) and the share of garment and footwear in the import basket is now nearly 85% of total imports from Myanmar. [1]

[1] Report on EU Enhanced Engagement with three Everything But Arms beneficiary countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar  Brussels 10.2.2020 SWD(2020) 19 final


Specific human and labour rights violations collected by CTUM trade union representatives in the last months.


·     According to verified data collected among workers by the CTUM, the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar that are at disposal of the EU officials, during this year: all rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, which are among the fundamental human rights standards at work have been totally cancelled.


·     130.000 teachers and 11.000 university professors have been suspended from their jobs due to their participation to the Civil Disobedience Movement.

·     400.000 civil staffs had been dismissed form their jobs, becoming jobless and homeless and 70 percent of business had broken down since the February coup.

·     At least 250.000 workers of the garment and shoe sector lost their jobs due to the military coup

·     According to the ILO report, about 500.000 building workers remained jobless and working hours decreased of 64%, due to the coup impact on the economy. In the tourism sector about 65.000 persons lost their jobs.

·     The military raided charity and health facilities, destroying, damaging or confiscating medical equipment, while abducting, beating, and arbitrarily detaining doctors, nurses and other colleagues.

·      The SAC closed universities and hospitals, searched civilian homes, carried out roadblocks, random killings and attacked healthcare workers or facilities in at least hundreds separate incidents.

·     The junta issued arrest warrants for 600 healthcare workers, forcing them into hiding.

·     The military continues to carry out workplaces, and door-to-door searches in hostels and in workers' homes.

·     16 labour organizations were declared illegal. For this reason, all union leaders were forced to work from hiding.

·     Company managers provide telephones, addresses and photos of union leaders to both military and police.

·     Since the coup, 28 union activists have been killed, and 116 male and female workers and trade unionists have been arrested with the aim to kill the labour movement.

·     Factories announced that labour unions has been dissolved. There is also a pre-employment warning, that workers will be fired if they join union or participate in union/ labour support activities.

·     All collective agreements have been cancelled, and social dialogue is not possible since trade unions are banned.

·      Workers have no employment contracts as well as no extension of the EC.

·     The Mandalay and 6 Yangon industrial zones: Hlaing Thar Yar, Shwe Pyi Thar, South Dagon, North Dagon, Dagon Seikkan and North Okklapa are subjected to martial law. Judicial power has been transferred to the military. Workers can be sentenced to many years of jail and hard labour. Those who still work in factories or private sector jobs, cannot speak because they are threatened.

·     If workers take part to protests, the employer send someone to take photos to gather information about who attended the event. Those who  were involved are threatened by the employer, that in case of any interrogation by military, there would be no protection.

·     In many factories, wages payment are delayed, with the excuse of political instability and impossibility to withdraw cash from banks.

·     Child laborers are also being recruited. The minimum wage is not paid, and no appropriate medical certificates.

·     Although COVID-19 third wave, many factories have no protective measures, nor safety guidelines and no tests have been implemented. Workers have to do their job without PPE, or masks, or safety equipment’s.

·     In many Chinese companies, working for international brands, workers are hired as daily wage workers, and are not recognized as permanent workers after three probation months.

·     Workers now receive only the minimum wage. Due to inflation, they earn less than €2 a day and are forced to unpaid overtime and to work Sundays without double pay. Paid leaves are not allowed. There are cases where management called or threaten to call the military and to arrest them, if they talk to people outside the workplace, about the factory's problems.

·     Workers cannot enjoy social security benefits.

·     Cases of sexual harassment have increased exponentially

·     Many factories now pay soldiers and police to ensure factory peace.

·     Former collective agreement between unions and employers have been abolished by employers. They publish new workplace rules, without consulting with workers representatives, or unions.

·     Workers are obliged to work excessive hours and during Sundays or in official holidays, without overtime payment as in the labour laws.

·     Factories temporary closure without notice and not informing workers when to reopen. When factories reopen, the management hire only non-union members or verbally pledge not to get involved or form union inside factory.  and factories permanent closure without compensation.

·     More than 400.000 public employees have been dismissed from their jobs due to the opposition to military coup.

·     The ILO denounces widespread use of forced labor by the military.






For all the above mentioned reasons, it is time for the EU to start the procedures for EBA suspension,. There is no more time for a wait and see approach. No reason to continue to delay such decision. The people of Burma/Myanmar is starving due to the military coup and the situation will not deteriorate for the EBA suspension, but for the lack of decisions by the EU.


This request has been also presented by 200 Myanmar organizations:


“including workers, farmers, students, teachers, medical professionals, lawyers, youth and women organizations request the international governments, including the Governments of Europe and the United States of America, to promptly implement the Comprehensive Economic Sanctions CES on the Myanmar Economy.

The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), including in particular the Everything But Arms (EBA) instrument, must be immediately suspended for Myanmar.

 The requested Comprehensive Economic Sanction calls for the stopping of international financial services (international bank transfers and bank credits), stopping the insurance and reinsurance services, effectively stopping arms and weapon selling and related support goods trading and dealing, oil and gas exploring, excavation, exporting and trading of natural resources of Myanmar such as gems, woods and other forest products”.