During its 100 years of existence, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has brought together governments, employers, and workers to work collaboratively to set labor standards, develop policies, and devise programs promoting decent work for people everywhere. Commemorating the First International Labour Conference held in 1919, this month the ILO hosted an event, Creating a Brighter Future of Work, Together. The event commemorated the ILO’s historic achievements and key leadership shared their vision for a human-centered approach to the future of work.
“Work is a right and social duty that gives dignity to the person that performs it,” Kim Osborne, Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Organization of American States (OAS), said in the event’s opening remarks. It is important that governments and businesses continue to work together towards achieving fair labor practices that create opportunities and prosperity for all people, she continued. As technology continues to develop and rapidly becomes integrated in the workplace, Osborne noted the importance to address technology changes and put people and their work at the center of social and economic policy and business practices.
Following Osborne, the Honorable Patrick Pizzella, Deputy Secretary of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor, gave remarks on a future-ready workforce for sustained economic growth. “ILO is the first organization to deal with problems of labor in a comprehensive manner,” Pizzella said. ILO has helped nations develop sound labor laws and standards that have served as the base for Free Trade Agreements, he continued. Pizzella spoke on the correlation between economic opportunity and safe working conditions, saying that the U.S. has been able to achieve labor accomplishments by enacting the current Administration’s economic agenda. The goal is to achieve a level playing field across countries for free, fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade and the U.S. is working towards that goal by modernizing USMCA labor obligations and enforcement and implementing ILO’s core components and objectives into trade negotiations and agreements, Pizzella said.
The Honorable Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, joined the event to discuss the impact of rights in the world of work. Focusing on the future and the challenges ahead, Destro emphasized the importance to look at labor collectively and keep workers at the center of policies and business practices. While production systems are spread across regions, Destro said, it’s important to remember the work is done by people and it’s important human freedom is recognized to allow workers to flourish, as well as create efficient supply chains. Destro said the greatest achievements of the ILO include supporting people and changing the course of lives and the future of nations, and looking ahead the U.S., ILO, and all nations must continue to work together to protect human rights.
Continuing the event theme of working together to create a brighter future, Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization, joined the event to reflect how far the ILO has come and share the vision for the future. Over the past 100 years, ILO has played a key role in building an ethical and productive framework for a fair globalization. Looking ahead, Ryder offered three key points learned from the past and to look at in the future to sustain progress and continue improvements: 1) The need to restore decent work as the key subject of policy making; 2) U.S. leadership is indispensable to success and it’s important the U.S. has a presence in labor issues; and 3) There is enduring alignment between the values embraced by the U.S. and the values in place by the ILO, and there must continue to be shared values and efforts to create a brighter future of work.
The event concluded with a panel discussing cooperation for decent work. Martha Newton, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor, recognized ILO for the data and reports conducted that help governments and stakeholders realize the scope of labor issues and how employers, workers, and governments can work together to set standards in the global economy. Colin Jordan, Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations of Barbados and Chair of the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML), emphasized the fundamental role of governments to create policy that promotes equality and fairness. In addition to governments, Peter Robinson, President, Unites States Council for International Business, said large companies have an important role to play in labor rights and understanding the workers and risks throughout their supply chains. Cathy Feingold, Director of the International Department, AFL-CIO, added to the conversation by encouraging changes in workforce structure to establish a direct relationship with workers and employers to create safe work environments across supply chains.
Highlights from the 31st Apparel Importers Trade & Transportation Conference
More than 150 attendees from across the industry attended USFIA’s 31st Apparel Importers Trade & Transportation Conference in New York on November 7th. We were joined by industry experts and seasoned analysts who provided the latest updates on trade policy, customs compliance, sourcing, sustainability, and innovation. We concluded the day with a fun networking reception at FIT Baker School of Business and Technology. It was great to see so many long-time friends and colleagues as well as new faces. Thanks to our speakers, sponsors, and attendees for making the day possible!
In The News
In case you missed the conference, the press has you covered! Click below to read the media coverage of the conference.
At a Glance
Thanks to our 2019 Conference Sponsors
Is Trump's trade policy historically unprecedented? Douglas Irwin, John French Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College and author of Clashing over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy joined a lecture series at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies to address the question. USFIA attended the event.
The lecture analyzed Trump’s trade policy through a historical lens by comparing Trump’s moves against Presidents of the last 200 years. Irwin explained that policies regarding steel tariffs, the renegotiation of NAFTA and his trade deficit worries contain historical context and he believes they will not leave a lasting impact. However, Irwin noted his concern over certain trade policy moves by the president. Trump has greatly deviated from past Presidents by imposing tariffs at the peak of a business cycle. Looking back, past administrations typically use tariffs as a tool during times of recession or when certain industries are in a slump. More concerning to Irwin was Trump’s toxic rhetoric around trade which is historically unprecedented and could harm relationships with the WTO and U.S. allies. Irwin also fears the lasting impact of the U.S. China trade war, noting that if the trade war continues this issue will not be easily repaired by the next administration.
18-months after the trade war began, the resolution is still unclear. This week the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released a report on escalation dynamics in economic conflict. The report was based on the application of game theory to the real-world escalation in the US-China trade conflict to help policymakers manage economic conflict with China.
To celebrate the release of the report, CSIS held an event with a panel of senior experts to discuss the state of U.S.-China trade relations. USFIA attended to get some answers about where we stand in the U.S.-China trade war.
The panelists focused on a few looming questions about the trade war: why hasn’t the U.S. enlisted the help of our allies in this conflict? What will the long-term effects of this conflict be? And can a resolution to this conflict be predicted?
Claire Read, former Assistant US Trade Representative for China Affairs, spoke about the U.S.’s reluctance to include other countries in this conflict. Read used the EU as an example of why the U.S. has not tried to build a coalition against China. While the EU has similar grievances as the U.S. when it comes to China, EU countries are much more reliant on trade than the United States. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that the EU would join a coalition with the U.S. that threatened to take action against China that was not sanctioned by the WTO.
The long-term effect of the trade war was something pressing on the minds of all panelists. However, Scott Kennedy, Senior Advisor, and Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics at CSIS had the most to say about the idea of de-coupling. “De-coupling is essentially de-interdependence,” said Kennedy. De-coupling is already a consequence of this trade conflict. Even though manufacturing was beginning to relocate outside of China before the conflict (due to factors such as rising wages), the trade war has certainly sped up this trend. While the experts predicted we will most likely find some stability with China, it will be hard for the U.S. not to feel the long term economic ramifications.
The event concluded with the panelists giving predictions about the resolution of this trade war. The consensus among panelists was an interim deal with China in the coming months that primarily supports U.S. farmers followed by a bigger deal around October of 2020 to maximize the influence on the election results.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) recently released their 2018 Better Cotton Leaderboard. This leaderboard shows brands making great strides towards sourcing greater volumes of Better Cotton, as well as top Better Cotton merchants and Cotton Mills. We would love to shout out some of our members who made BCI’s top list. This program has already trained over two million cotton farmers in 21 countries, and adoption continues to grow. In 2018, BCI moved closer to their 2020 goal: Better Cotton accounting for 30% of global cotton production.
Historical levels of sustainable cotton were purchased and sourced for supply chains this past year. American Eagle Outfitters, Levi Strauss, and PVH Corp. have all made commitments to source cotton as Better Cotton. Levi Strauss and PVH Corp. both have goals to hit 100% sustainable cotton by 2020. Both brands were recognized in the top 15 retailers and brand members by sourcing volume. PVH Corp. also made it on the list as one of the fastest movers by increased sourcing volumes.
Three global brands have committed to sourcing 90% of their cotton as Better Cotton. Adidas AG, Dutch brand Hema B.V., and Swedish retailer Stadium AB. These brands continue to prioritize sustainability initiatives as many on the leaderboard follow suit
In addition to recognizing retailers and brands, BCI also highlighted top Cotton Merchants and Mills using better cotton. Bangladesh was home to 5 of the top 15 sourcing mills by volume. Bangladesh company AA Coarse Spun Ltd., who joined BCI in 2012, took the top spot for Cotton Mill with greatest sourcing volume of better cotton. China, India, Pakistan, and Turkey were also home to the largest sourcing mills by volume in the world. While the top cotton merchants were from China, Switzerland, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. The title of overall top Cotton Merchant (by sourcing volume) went to the Basil Group based in India. This year 2 of the top 20 Cotton Merchants were based in Xinjiang, China - hopefully, a sign the region is committed to producing sustainable and ethical cotton.
Click here to see the full 2018 Leaderboard