MARCH 25, 2003
Jeremy Woodrum, 202-547-5985
US Consumers Successfully De-Pants
New Data Shows Clothing Imports Plummet $100
Million as 39 Retailers Ban Retail of Products from Burma over
- March 25 - According to newly released statistics from the U.S.
Department of Commerce, apparel imports from the Southeast Asian
country of Burma dropped by 27% between 2001 and 2002, from $411
to $303 million. The sharp decrease resulted from the almost-unprecedented
decision by 39 major U.S. retailers to forgo doing business with
the Burmese military junta, which is known for horrific human
rights abuses including torture, the use of rape as a weapon of
war, the recruitment of more child soldiers than any other country
in the world, and the use of forced labor and forced child labor
in the construction of apparel manufacturing zones.
that the decision by so many powerful companies to refuse to import
goods from a country based on human rights concerns is probably
unprecedented,” says Aung Din, a former political prisoner and
torture survivor who now serves as Director of Policy at FBC.
The 39 companies
include Wal-Mart, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger, Jones New York,
and Federated Department Stores, owner of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
The Free Burma Coalition estimates that these companies sold $381
billion in goods last year, putting a huge chunk of the U.S. retail
market off-limits to goods made in Burma. Many companies acknowledge
that human rights conditions in Burma make doing business there
socially irresponsible: “what is going on there [in Burma] is
a violation of the philosophy and spirit of our vendor supplier
code of conduct,” said a Federated spokesperson in the Los Angeles
Times. Since January 2003, 4 more companies have announced a ban
on Burma products, including Saks Incorporated and Mothers Work,
the largest U.S. maternity-wear retailer.
“One of the
only major U.S. retailers still selling Burma products is May
Department Stores,” Aung Din says. “We don’t understand why May
won’t take a stand for human rights when so many other companies
are banning clothes from Burma.” May, which had $13.5 billion
in 2002 sales, owns 14 mega-chains including Lord & Taylor, Hechts,
Strawbridges, and Foley’s.
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi has called for companies
to avoid the country, saying that sanctions “send a strong economic
and political message” to the military regime. In its latest report
on human rights in Burma, the U.S. State Department stated: “Forced
labor, including forced child labor, has contributed materially
to the construction of industrial parks subsequently used largely
to produce manufactured exports including garments.”
|Common Dreams NewsCenter is a non-profit news service
providing breaking news and views for the Progressive Community.
press release posted here has been provided to Common Dreams NewsWire by
one of the many progressive organizations who make up America's Progressive Community.
you wish to comment on this press release or would like more information,
please contact the organization directly.
*all times Eastern US (GMT-5:00)
Read our Guidelines
for Submitting News Releases
1997-2003 Common Dreams.