Free-Trade Slaves for $70 a month

  Globalisation of the world economy has resulted in competition for investments. In the last few years, more than one hundred countries have declared areas of their territory free-trade zones, where companies pay close to nothing in taxes and have access to very cheap labour, especially young women.

  These conditions enable them to sell their products at highly competitive prices in Europe or anywhere else in the western world. Disney has set up factories in Haiti, Nike in Vietnam, Reebok in China and Indonesia.

  "Free Trade Slaves," a Belgian-made documentary, was filmed on site in Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Mexico and Morocco.

  In the 60s, five main trade free zones were set up, in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Taiwan, Ireland and South Korea.

The Belgian documentary "FREE TRADE SLAVES" about competitive sweatshops was due to be televised by SBS Television, The Cutting Edge, at 8.30 pm on Tuesday 22 June 1999. It is relevant to the Stop-MAI seminar held at Nedlands on 26 June. The original is at:

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  Today there are hundreds that operate across five continents. These trade zones compete against each other to offer the most attractive conditions to investors.

  In Sri Lanka and El Salvador there are two new free-trade zones devoted to the textile industry. In Mexico there are areas next to the United States border where there is a 30-year history of this practice.

  These areas have the highest industry density in the country since practically all major US firms are operating there.

  In northern Morocco, 12 kilometres from Europe, certain areas have recently been declared free-trade zones to attract Spanish businesses, in an attempt to provide the same service for Europe.

  A local businessman says, "A worker in Spain is paid ten times as much. Here you get ten for the price of one, and we're only ten kms from Spain and it's tax free."

  In FREE TRADE SLAVES, extraordinary stories are told by

  This new phenomenon is changing the world's economy. At the same time, human rights are flagrantly violated.

  In El Salvador workers are sometimes forced to spend nights locked inside factories, and the slightest attempt to organise the workers is punished by massive firings. In Sri Lanka the work day is twelve hours, seven days a week, for monthly wages of about $US 70.

  In Mexico the factories have transformed farming regions into cities with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

  There are no social services, and pollution levels so high that there has been an alarming increase of deformities in newborns during the 90s.

  These birth defects include tumours, neural tube defects like encephaly and spina bifida, and other brain damage.

  (From Belgium, in English, Spanish and Sinhalese, English subtitles)

General information

International Labor Organisation - Report on Child labour
Human Rights for Workers - the crusade against global sweatshops
Sweatshop Watch
Suffer the little children - a special series published by the Ottawa Sun

-- ©SBS, Australia's National Multicultural Television Broadcaster


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