by the non-operationalisation of the nuclear deal, the US is beginning to flex
its muscles in areas that might directly impinge on India''s exports. Earlier this
month, the US Department of Labour ominously issued a public notice eliciting
comments on ''procedural guidelines'' for the development of a public list of goods
from countries that employ child and forced labour in contravention of global
is every possibility that the US government is moving once again to publicly list
Indian handmade carpets as products of child labour. At stake are India''s handicraft
exports, which accounted for around $800 million of exports in 2006-07, with the
US alone accounting for 50 per cent.
export items such as garments, sports goods, gems and jewellery too could come
under the scanner owing to employment of labour below the legal working age. India
has passed legislation banning child labour, but the central and state governments
have to verify and monitor programmes to ensure that anti-child labour laws are
implemented in letter and spirit.
minister of commerce Jairam Ramesh has called upon the Carpet Export Promotion
Council to execute an independent social audit every year to convince NGOs that
the incidence of child labour has indeed come down markedly over the past two
union ministries of commerce, labour as well as women and child development in
sectors are launching a joint initiative wherever there is a strong public perception
of the use of child labour. But experts say the authorities ought to have done
sufficient homework earlier to convince overseas experts and authorities of India''s
bonafides on the issue.
a decade ago, the US made a similar bid to ban exports of handmade carpets from
India on the child labour issue. But the combined efforts of the government and
industry then proved successful in ensuring that the ban did not materialise.
exporters today are able to give their buyers the ''Kaleen'' certificate to assure
them that their carpets do not use child labour. A greater use of Kaleen would
help combat adverse propaganda against India.
child labour is not the only issue on which the US has sought to penalise Indian
exporters. In the run-up to the first WTO ministerial meeting in 1996, the US
wanted to link trade and labour standards, so that export industries that did
not maintain global labour standards like the advanced countries would not be
able to secure market access. Fortunately the issue has not made any headway in
now, especially in the light of snail''s pace of progress on the Doha Round coupled
with growing bilateralism, countries such as India stand to face the wrath of
trade majors if it crosses them on other issues.