Background Briefing


Human Rights Watch understands that it is unlikely that North Korean outward processing zones could achieve full compliance with our recommended amendments to Annex 22-B at this time or in the near future.  Nonetheless, we believe that free trade accords should require all covered countries to effectively protect, in law and practice, the basic labor rights of their workers producing goods under the agreements.  No exceptions should be made, especially for a country as repressive as North Korea.  Therefore, although we recognize that in the extraordinary case of a country as closed as North Korea, increased trade could lead to greater openness and accompanying opportunities to push for rights improvements, we also believe that the significant benefits of free, duty-free trade should not be granted to the country’s outward processing zones absent compliance with equally significant workers’ rights obligations.  Therefore, we oppose Annex 22-B in its current form and urge the USTR to negotiate amendments to Annex 22-B based on our recommendations, set forth above, and thereby seize this critical opportunity to improve respect for workers’ rights in North Korean outward processing zones while opening a bit further the window onto and from North Korea that these zones can provide.  The US Congress should demand nothing less as a requirement for approving the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement.