A Rohingya refugee at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, where cases of the virus have been found. Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Groups in Myanmar have appealed to the European Union to not scrap trade privileges to the bloc over human rights violations against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.

The Union of Myanmar Federation of the Chambers of Commerce (UMFCCI) and two trade unions have appealed to the EU to continue granting the country the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP), while pledging support and cooperation on human and labor rights, The Myanmar Times reported on December 17.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on October 3 announced that the EU was considering ending Myanmar’s trade privileges due to human rights violations against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.

According to the Myanmar daily, the UMFCCI, the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar and the Myanmar Industries, Craft and Services, Trade Unions Federation released a joint statement saying that such “drastic action” taken by EU would only make things worse for the existing labor market, which they say is “fragile and under-developed.”

Revoking Myanmar’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, part of the bloc’s GSP, would lead to “catastrophic economic and social consequences,” destroy the livelihood of “grassroots workers” and derail Myanmar’s “ongoing journey towards decent work and industrial peace,” the statement said.

Myanmar’s garment industry, which employs 300,000 workers and generates exports of US$3 billion every year, would be severely affected if EU trade privileges were withdrawn. Garments are now Myanmar’s second largest export item.

In 2017, 72.2% of Myanmar’s exports consisted of textiles and the EU was the third largest export market for textiles, absorbing about 8.8% of Myanmar’s total exports last year.