‘APEC 2015 launchpad for greater corporate plunder, increased labor exploitation’

The upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit will only set the stage for greater corporate plunder and increased labor exploitation across the region, according to a Quezon City-based labor NGO.

Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) said only big multinational corporations and local elites will benefit from APEC’s thrust while workers will suffer from even cheaper wages and flexible work arrangements.

“What is not being said about the APEC summit is that it will lay the groundwork for greater corporate plunder by dismantling remaining trade and investment regulations, leveraging public finance to private enterprises through public-private partnerships (PPP), and shifting cost pressures to small local businesses in a region that is home to more than half of the world’s poor.

EILER said the Philippines’ festive hosting presents stark ironies as the country exemplifies the worst and wide-ranging impacts of APEC’s framework for neoliberal globalization for more than two decades.

“Since the first Philippine hosting of APEC in 1996, the shares of agriculture and industry in the gross domestic product have dropped significantly. The country has been in a state of chronic trade deficit due to sweeping trade liberalization. More than 3 million workers lost their jobs from 1990 up to present, especially workers in sectors directly affected by trade liberalization such as the garments sector. Over 12 million are currently jobless or in poor quality of work while another 12 million Filipinos are migrant workers in different parts of the globe,” EILER researcher Carlos Maningat said.

SME integration

Maningat said among the key subthemes of the APEC 2015 summit is the integration of SMEs into the regional and global value chains (GVCs) which is essentially the continuation of the subcontracting strategy of transnational corporations.

“Under the SME integration thrust, MNCs seek to reduce the procurement, production and distribution costs by shifting the cost pressures and risks to the suppliers and subcontractors, and ultimately, to the workers of the subcontractors. This will lead to shutdown of weaker local enterprises and consolidation of the remaining ones into few relatively big suppliers,” he said.

EILER said the scenario is not actually new, as SMEs in many countries like the Philippines already suffered this fate under the global subcontracting chains scheme since the 1990s

“Increased competition and consolidation of SMEs will result to mass layoffs and increased labor flexibility, wherein more workers are forced to adjust to external market demands via contractualization, flexible workhours, and flexible wages that will all pull down the general cost of labor,” Maningat said.

“SME integration also tends to obscure the employment relations of workers with MNCs, as employees will be under small local businesses. This arrangement shifts liabilities from MNCs to small suppliers with smaller capital and weaker capacity to shoulder liabilities while insulating MNCs from direct backlash and accountability,” he added.

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