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May 19, 2015


Posted on May 19, 2015

Having chosen the path of building a democratic, secular, legal state, where the provision of human rights and freedoms is the supreme goal, Uzbekistan is one of the first in the region to ratify 13 ILO conventions, including on forced labor, discrimination in employment, minimum age for admission to employment and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and others.

In order to implement the provisions of these conventions, amendments and supplements were made to national legislation aimed at establishing legal guarantees for the children and adults labor and increase the responsibility for its violation.

Legislation and regulations of the Republic of Uzbekistan establish the minimum age for admission to employment, the list of activities and work prohibited for children under the 18 years of age, compulsory education for 12 years, banned forced labor and human trafficking.

In particular, Article 77 of the Labor Code provides the minimum age for admission to employment – 16 years of age, in exceptional cases, with the permission of parents or their substitutes shall be employed from 15 years of age. In July 2009 the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population and the Ministry of Healthcare issued a new edition of the “List of hazardous types of work prohibited for persons under 18 years of age”. According to this list it is forbidden to recruit persons under 18 years of age prohibits in 34 production sectors, in particular, they are not allowed to take 1673 specific professions. More detail information on this list can be found at http://www.lex.uz/pages/GetAct.aspx?lact_id=1503069#1503131.

There is a system of state institutions on prohibition of forced labor, including the worst forms of child labor. The The Special Commission on Affairs of Minors of the Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Uzbekistan is responsible for addressing almost all matters related to the situation of children in society, including control over elimination of the worst forms of child labor.

In addition, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population has effective legal inspections for labor protection, supervising over preventing the violations of labor legislation.

The direct control over the observance of the existing legislation is also carried out by the Institute of Ombudsman and its offices in the regions, representatives of international organizations such as ILO and UNICEF, and various NGOs involved in the protection of the rights of children and youth.

However, it should be noted that any violation against children and forced labor strictly punishable by the Uzbek legislation.

According to the Law of Uzbekistan “On combating human trafficking” forced labor or services – referred to the exploitation of people and are classified as human trafficking. In accordance with Article 135 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan, trafficking is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 3 to 5 years; the same action committed under the threat of coercion shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of 5 to 8 years.

Over the past year and a half under this Article there had been detected and investigated more than 1,600 criminal cases. 1,100 persons brought to justice, more than 1,700 men and 700 women, including 60 minors were acknowledged as victims.

In order to strengthen the control over the implementation of the requirements of ILO conventions the Coordination Council on Child Labour was established in the Republic of Uzbekistan that was headed by high ranking officials of the Federation Council of Trade Unions, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Chamber of Commerce. It also includes representatives of relevant ministries, agencies and public organizations.

The Coordination Council plays a crucial role in the organization and monitoring of child labor in the cotton industry, organized by Uzbekistan jointly with ILO.

Monitoring of child labor was conducted during the period from the 11th of September to the 31st of October 2013 by ten international experts together with 40 specialists from the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Council of Federation of Trade Unions, the Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Farmers of Uzbekistan. All experts previously taken part in special training courses and seminars organized by the ILO experts in accordance with international requirements and using the methodology of ILO-IPEC.

International experts were hired by the ILO itself, without the intervention of the Uzbek side and operated in accordance with the mandate of the ILO and international law. The experts had a high competence, with extensive experience and wide range of knowledge in the implementation of international labor standards, forced labor, child labor, trafficking, agriculture and labor inspection.

Monitoring had been carried out in schools, farms and households (private houses) and mahallas. As a result, there were 806 site visits, 1592 documented interviews (ILO Guidelines form), and unhindered access to the cotton fields, educational institutions and to all the other places visited in unplanned and unagreed schedule. Detailed results of the monitoring (printed and electronic) have been passed directly to the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) in November-December 2013 for consideration.

The monitoring revealed the absence of the use of forced child labor in a systematic manner in the cotton harvest in 2013. Cases of child labor occurred during the cotton harvest were very limited. Appropriate measures to assist children, including their reintegration in the educational institutions have been taken if child labor was revealed.

Perpetrators in bringing child labor were brought to administrative responsibility.

International Organization of Employers (IOE) welcomed the results of the joined monitoring of the ILO and the Uzbek side as a visual demonstration of the commitment of the government and national social partners of Uzbekistan to cooperate with the ILO to eradicate the practice of child labor in the country.

It should also be noted that in 2012 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Uzbekistan had monitored this matter as well. By the letter of 26 October 2012, UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan confirmed that the 2012 were was no mass mobilization of pupils of secondary schools in the cotton harvest.

In a constant manner there is a broad outreach to all categories of workers (heads of organizations, teachers, farmers, self-government bodies, women’s and youth organizations) to prevent forced labor, including the worst forms of child labor, as well publishing special guidelines and booklets.

The Council of the Federation of Trade Unions issued tens of thousands of copies of the guidelines “Uzbekistan ratified ILO Conventions” and distributed among employers and self-governing bodies through the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the “Mahalla” Foundation. For these purposes, the Internet has been extensively used, to which more than 10.2 million people, or one third of the total population have access nowadays.

The social partnership mechanisms are applied in implementing the ILO Conventions. There is the general agreement between the Government, trade unions and employers in Uzbekistan, 86 sectorial agreements and directly between enterprises and organizations – over 93 thousand collective agreements.

The collective and contractual agreements cover 96% of all legal entities employing a labor of the trade unions’ members. All collective agreements contain provisions on observance of labor rights, including protection from forced labor in accordance with the ILO Convention No. 105.

Annual reports on the measures that are undertaken by the Republic of Uzbekistan on the prevention of forced labor and the worst forms of child labor are timely submitted to the ILO. Information on implementation of ILO Conventions is available on the webpages of the Embassies of Uzbekistan abroad. Only the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Belgium had sent this type information to over 2,400 addressees.

The evidence of the commitment of Uzbekistan to further develop and strengthen constructive cooperation with ILO on implementation of Conventions on forced and child labor is the adoption in last April of a Decent Work Country Programme for 2014-2016.

The program includes priorities, tasks and indicators on three strategic areas:

1) Strengthening social partnership in Uzbekistan to implement fundamental labor principles and rights at work, including a national policy on the application of international labor standards, an action plan on the application of the conventions on forced and child labor, conditions of work in agriculture, including in the cotton-growing industry;

2) Widening decent employment opportunities, including implementation of active policies of providing full, productive and freely chosen employment, including youth, the effective operation of labor market institutions, the development of entrepreneurship through promotion of self-employment and support for small enterprises;

3) Developing an effective management system of occupational safety and health, conducting out collective bargaining and tripartite consultations on wages, improvement of social protection.

To implement the Strategy, on 27 May 2014 the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan adopted a Resolution on “Additional measures to implement ILO Conventions ratified by the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2014-2016”. The document provides a number of important measures to prevent and eradicate the worst forms of child labor and forced labor, carrying out legal reforms and strengthening the national monitoring system using the ILO-IPEC methodology.

The government of Uzbekistan issued a written (protocol) instructions to all the involved organizations, including hokims, heads of educational institutions and other organizations, on the inadmissibility of mass-involving (interrupting the study process) of children under 18 years of age to the cotton harvest, as well as forced mobilization of workers, without their voluntary consent, by applying harsh penalties in the case of violations the relevant legislation.

From 18 September to 25 October 2014 the national monitoring of child labor in the cotton industry was conducted in accordance with the above mentioned Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers with methodological and expert assistance from the ILO.

Before starting this monitoring, on 16-17 September 2014 Uzbekistan with the assistance of ILO experts (Anton Hausen, E.Betullaeva, Harry Taliga, Anna Sokolova) have been conducted training for members of the regional monitoring groups with participation of more than 60 people.

For the first time representatives of regional self initiative NGOs such as the Association of Teachers “Murabbiy”, Association on reproductive health, Center for social support adolescents “Lobar”, Information and Educational Center of Youth “Istiqbolli avlod” and others were involved in the monitoring process.

Taking into account the practical absence of persons under 18 years of age in the cotton fields during the monitoring in 2013, upon the ILO’s suggestion, it was decided to raise the age of pickers to be interviewed up to 20 years of age.

The ILO advice and expert assistance were systematically provided during the monitoring process.

As a whole, from 18 September to 25 October 2014 the experts of the regional monitoring groups covered about 40,000 km, visited 172 rural districts and cities of regional subordination, including 46 – in the course of repeated visits. 711 sites of potential risks were visited, including 316 visits to the professional colleges and academic lyceums and 395 visits to farms. 745 documented interviews had been taken.

In total, 1916 applications have been filled by experts in accordance with the ILO requirements.

All secondary specialized vocational education institutions functioned during the season of the cotton harvest. The average percentage of attendance of students of academic lyceums and professional colleges made up 91%.

Throughout the monitoring period in the cotton fields it was recorded the presence of 49 minors. 41 of them picked cotton and 8 children were present in the field with their parents.

In all these cases the perpetrators were brought to justice. In particular, the leaders of 11 professional colleges in five districts were brought to administrative responsibility for violations of child labor and imposed the fine of more than 8.5 million Uzbek soms (about $3,552.74). Eight heads of farms were brought to administrative responsibility in the two regions and in respect of fines amounting to more than 3.2 mln. soms (about $ 1,337.50).

All cotton in 2014 had been collected by private producers – farmers (their number is 70 thousand farms and they employ more than 1.4 million people), in accordance with the employment contracts concluded in advance for 30-40 days. In addition, 1000 cotton harvesting combines were used, whose number will be increased to 3000 in 2015 and 10000 – in 2016-2017, which will allow the machinery to collect 85% of grown cotton. It should be noted that in 2014 additional workers were recruited to attend in the cotton harvest upon individual employment contracts.

According to Article 2 of the Forced Labour Convention (№29), hiring workers on a voluntary basis to cotton works cannot be considered as forced labour, as workers have the right to terminate their employment at any time, if there is a situation of compulsion.

In order to protect citizens’ labour rights, “hotlines” have been launched and operate under the Council of the Federation of Trade Unions, regional councils of trade unions and territorial associations of trade union organizations. 1994 citizens’ appeals were received in 2013 and 2048 in 2014, which were given legal advices. However no complaints related to the use of forced labour and the worst forms of child labour in cotton works have been filed. It should also be noted that in 2013-2014 there have not been any claims to the courts on forcing by authorities to attend of business organizations in the cotton works.

According to trade unions, in the vast majority of farms of the country the necessary conditions for effective work and good rest for cotton pickers have been created. In particular, hot meals were provided under quality control by medical staff, diversity and calorie purposes. In the fields there were containers with drinking water.

It should be noted that in addition to payment from their permanent place of work, workers had been paid for harvested cotton. Payment had been made in cash at least once in five days in the presence of bank employees, while the advanced pickers were rewarded with valuable gifts on weekly basis.

As far as the issue of forcing businesses to provide funds to pay for food or cotton pickers, it should be noted that since this year, such practice is prohibited by the law.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan adopted the Decree of 12 August 2014 on Regulations on the use by budgetary organizations charitable donations from business entities.

The document stresses that the leadership of governing bodies and regional authorities, as well as budgetary organizations in accordance with legislation take responsibility for forcing business entities to charity.

In this year it is planned to prepare amendments to the legislation, which establish the administrative and criminal responsibility for the forced involvement of businesses to charities and other activities related to the funds diversion.

Some statements that the authorities force pensioners, mothers and other citizens to participate in the cotton harvest under threat of being deprived the social insurance support, on which they depend, are also baseless. There is no any single fact of deprivation of women and pensioners payments, social benefits for some reason.

It would be right to say that members of farmers’ and workers’ families wish to get additional income, which is not prohibited by current law. Moreover, in 2015 Uzbekistan declared “The Year of Care for the Senior Generation” and adopted a State Program, which envisages a complex of measures aimed at improving the health of elder people and to improve the service provided for them. 2246,5 trillion Uzbek soums were allocated for the implementation of the Program.

It should be noted that prior to independence in 1990, the cotton held up to 90 percent of our country’s structure of agricultural lands. Practically there was no crop rotation. The land dwindled, was barbarously used for one purpose only – to grow cotton. The monopoly of cotton and one-sided development of agriculture in the Soviet period led to the fact that in Uzbekistan, which has fertile land and excellent climatic conditions, the consumption of meat, dairy products, grains and even fruit and vegetables and potatoes per capita used to be twice lower than in the other republics of the former Soviet Union. In addition, the intensive cotton production, the use of huge amounts of pesticides and chemicals has led an environmental disaster of the Aral Sea and increased mortality, particularly among children.

After independence as a result of measures taken in the country, the acreage under cotton has been reduced twice and its production – from 6 million tonnes to just over 3 million tons, and the liberated areas given over to food crops.

The fundamental institutional reforms, the essence of which was the total elimination of administrative planning and distribution system (collective farms), the transition to market relations, became the fundamental basis of the reform of agricultural production in our country.

Agricultural lands were transferred to the newly created private farmers with allocation of lands to them on a rental basis, providing necessary privileges and preferences by the Government. In particular, farmers use the simplified tax system – are subject to only one type of tax – a single tax on land. The lending rate for farmers is less than 5 percent.

Farms are provided with all kinds of services. Currently, more than 1,5 thousand mini-banks provide services in rural areas, there are almost 2 thousand machine and tractor parks, about 2,5 thousand stations selling of fuel and mineral fertilizers, there are 1,5 thousand water users’ associations in rural areas, more than 350 consulting centers.

There is joint production of the most modern tractors, grain and cotton harvesters in the country together with German companies “Claas” and “Lemken”.

During 2010-2014 planting of new orchards on the area of almost 50 thousand hectares was carried out, including more than 14 thousand hectares of intensive gardening with the use of drip irrigation, as well as vineyards – on the area of 23 thousand hectares. Over 6 million seedlings were delivered from Poland, Serbia and other European countries in order to create intensive orchards.

The volume of agricultural production increased overall by more than 2 times since independence, which, in spite of the growth of the country’s population of nearly 10 million people, or over 30 million, allowed to increase in per capita consumption of meat – 1,3 times, milk and milk products – 1,6 times, potatoes – 1,7 times, vegetables – more than 2 times, fruits – almost 4 times.

Currently, Uzbekistan annually produces about 16 million tons of fruit and vegetables.  Per capita production is provided by approximately 300 kilograms of vegetables, 75 kg of potatoes and 44 kilos of grapes, which is about three times higher than the optimal consumption rates.

In the first years of independence, more than 5 million tons of wheat had been delivered to the country, but in recent years Uzbekistan produces more than 8 million tons. Today Uzbekistan is a fully self-sufficient state in the issue of providing the population with consumer goods and food products.

The ongoing food program allowed not only to solve the key tasks of providing complete and balanced nutrition for the population, but also to increase the export of fruits and vegetables by almost 5 times – from 1.6 billion USD in 1991 to 5 billion USD in 2014.

Simultaneously, the volume of cotton exports reduced by twice from 1.13 million tons in 1991 to 580 thousand tons in 2014.

In 1991 the share of cotton-fiber in the total exports of Uzbekistan (1.5 billion USD) was 59,7% percent. However, in 2014 this figure fell to 7.4% of the total exports of 13.5 billion USD, while exports of fruits and vegetables increased to 11,9%.

Therefore, all those who spread biased information that the export of cotton-fiber is the main source of foreign currency for Uzbekistan do not know the real situation, or they it deliberately in order to isolate Uzbekistan and inflict damage on sustainable and independent development of the country, and also harm the process of strengthening its relations with the countries of Europe.

Our forecasts suggest that in 2020 the production of fruit and vegetables, grapes and melons would increase by at least 2,3 times in comparison with the outcomes of 2014.

Needless to say that relying on such prospects for the production of fruit and vegetables and grapes, it is necessary, first of all, to continue and deepen a large-scale work on the reform and modernization of agriculture, improvement of land reclamation and irrigation, increasing fertility and soil productivity. The program of measures for irrigated land reclamation for 2013-2017 envisages  that within five years 1,4 million hectares of irrigated land will be ameliorated and crop yields will be increased.

Recently the Program of agricultural development for 2015-2019 years has been elaborated. It provides for a further phased optimization of the cotton field by reducing low-yield land, with subsequent placement on the released land fruits, potatoes and other crops, as well as the organization of intensive gardens.

The Program of measures on structural reforms, modernization and diversification of production in 2015-2019 envisages implementation of 391 investment projects in the food industry, construction of more than 2 thousand modern storage facilities with capacity of preserving not less than 1.3 million tons of fruit and vegetables, thus bringing the total storage capacity up to 2 million tons. At the same time it will ensure the development of other logistics networks associated with this sphere.

We highly appreciate the assistance of such institutions as the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and many others, as well as foreign government agencies, which have participated in attracting more than 1.1 billion USD for implementation of more than 100 investment and grant projects aimed at modernizing and improving the efficiency of agriculture, involving existing reserves and capacity to increase production of food crops

We also welcome the allocation 168 million euro by the EU in the framework of development assistance for the period 2014-2020 for the implementation of national projects in Uzbekistan, mainly in the field of rural development. At the same time, it is important to ensure the implementation of pilot projects with an integrated approach, which would cover issues of irrigation, support for small and medium-sized businesses, attraction through pilot projects of new technologies in agricultural production such as intensive gardening, drip irrigation and others.

In order to create an alternative system to child and forced labour, special attention has been paid to the reform of the education system, which provides a 12-year compulsory education, including, in addition to general secondary education, training in academic lyceums and professional colleges, covering all young people under the 18 years of age. The school education in Uzbekistan is conducted in seven languages – Uzbek, Karakalpak, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Tajik.

After completion of 9 years of secondary school, the next 3 years the youth receives training in specialized professional colleges and academic lyceums equipped with modern teaching and laboratory, computer and mechanical equipment. There along with general studies young people are also trained on two or three specialties demanded in the labour market.

More than 1500 new professional colleges and academic lyceums have been constructed in Uzbekistan during the years of independence.

Overall the annual spending in Uzbekistan for the development and reform of education accounts for up to 10-12% of GDP, and its share in the state budget expenditures exceed 35%. This fact itself highlights the enormous attention paid to this area.

To prevent the use of child labour more attention is given to monitoring the school attendance of pupils. It should be noted that during the entire school year attendance of the training sessions is maintained at the level of 98-99 percent.

Each case of absence of a student in the classroom without a valid excuse becomes a subject of discussion both at the level of teaching staff and the Mahalla (citizens’ institute of self-governance) with follow-up measures to immediately return a student to the studies and sports activities at the school.

For the past period a specially created fund financed the construction of around 1500 modern public sports facilities for children. Almost every school, college and high school now has outdoor sports fields and indoor gyms and swimming pools equipped with modern sports equipment. Currently in Uzbekistan about 2 million children, including over 840,000 girls, are regularly engaged in more than 30 types of sports activities.

A particular attention is paid in Uzbekistan to the development of health care. 60 per cent of the public budget funds are spent on social protection of the population annually. In 2014, there was an in-depth medical examination of 6.5 million pupils of preschools and schools, professional colleges and high schools, allowing early identification of diseases and their successfully prevention.

In close cooperation with the Republic of Korea, a construction of modern medical children’s multi-center has started, with no analogues in the other CIS countries, which will be equipped with high-tech medical equipment.

As a result of the measures taken over the past ten years, the number of children born with congenital malformations decreased by 1.3 times. Among children of 6-15 incidences of acute respiratory viral infections fell by 34.4 per cent, pneumonia – 49.7 per cent, bronchitis – 32.8 per cent, scoliosis – by 32.7 per cent. In general, over the years of independence, infant and maternal mortality has reduced by more than 3 times, and life expectancy of the population has increased for 7 years from 66 to 73.5.

To prevent forced and child labor the Parliament adopted the special Program which is being implement by the Government. Under this Program jobs are created every year and more than 970.000 people get employed in order to increase incomes and living standards. In 2014 about 1 million jobs were created, of which 60 per cent are in rural areas.

Over the past year more than 600 thousand graduates of educational institutions were employed. A significant part of youth is employed by small businesses. Graduates of professional colleges, decided to start their own business, receive about 200 billion soums of preferential microloans, 1.4 times more than in 2013.

Overall, the share of small businesses and private entrepreneurships in the GDP of Uzbekistan has grown from 1 per cent in 1991 to 56 percent in 2014. Currently, this sector of the economy employs more than 76.5 per cent of the working population against 49.7 per cent in 2000.

As a result, the structure of income of the population sees a growing share of income from business activities, which in the years of independence has increased from 10.6 to 52 per cent. This is one of the highest rates in the CIS countries. In contrast to other countries of the former Soviet Union, in Uzbekistan there is no sharp population stratification by income level. The level of differentiation in the population’s income, when compared to the most and least affluent, decreased from 53.3 times to 7.8 times, in the period from 2000 to the present. The threshold value is 10, which is the criterion for social stability in society. The most important thing is that a sense of social justice and security is reflected in mood and well-being of the people. For instance, according to the WHO, in 2012 the number of suicides per 100 thousand population was 8.5 cases in Uzbekistan that is 2-2.5 times lower than in neighboring countries and most of the CIS countries, as well as developed countries in Europe and Asia, including cotton-growing states.

It is important to note that today almost every second family has a personal car, which is particularly satisfying and making feel pride – of domestic production (more than 250 thousand cars of 8 types of Chevrolet cars are produced annually in partnership with the General Motors). A strong focus is on strengthening road safety, along with the increase in the numbers of cars in the country. According to WHO, published in 2013, in Uzbekistan the number of deaths in road accidents per 100 thousand population was almost 2 times less than in the neighboring countries (21.9 – in Kazakhstan, 19,2 – in Kyrgyzstan, 18.1 – in Tajikistan) and in  a number of CIS countries (18.6 – in Russia, 18.1 – in Armenia, 15.7 – in Georgia). During the cotton harvest additional measures are taken to ensure enhanced road safety. Therefore that anonymous information distributed in the Internet about the growth of fatal accidents in this period did not correspond to reality.

Today, a study of working conditions and employment practices of labor in agriculture is carried out in cooperation with ILO, which will clarify the concept of forced labor in the cotton harvest.

Steps have been taken to institutionalize free hiring pickers through the labor market institutions.

From child and forced labor prevention’s viewpoint it is important that a national system of monitoring compliance with labor legislation has been formed today in Uzbekistan with the ILO’s assistance, including in the sphere of child and forced labor, corresponding to the ILO’s international standards and the ILO-IPEC’s methodology.

And that is why Uzbekistan can and will monitor compliance with requirements of ILO Convention, with assistance of ILO and involvement of NGOs registered in the country.

Evidence of firm commitment of Uzbekistan to fulfill its international obligations in the field of labor protection is the development in the last two years constructive dialogue and intensified cooperation with the ILO. Since 2013 20 activities were held jointly with the ILO. The representatives of the ILO visited Uzbekistan 9 times.

On 22-23 April 2015 Tashkent hosted an international conference “The role of trade unions in ensuring citizens’ rights to decent working conditions: the experience of Uzbekistan” along UNDP, ILO and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Progress in cooperation between ILO and Uzbekistan discussed at the 103rd Annual International Labor Conference (ILC) held in June 2014, as well as at a meeting of the ILO Committee of Experts.

Due to the fact that in 2013 the cooperation between Uzbekistan and ILO reached high level and, taking into consideration the Uzbek Government’s commitment to fulfill international obligations, the ILC’s 103rd Session did not include Uzbekistan in the list of countries having problems with the implementation of ILO Conventions.

The situation with the implementation of ILO conventions by Uzbekistan (Conventions №182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour and №105 on Abolition of Forced Labour) was not included in a preliminary list of 40 individual cases of concern, which may be considered at the 104th session of the International Labour Conference in June 2015.

Taking into account the positive dynamics in collaboration between Uzbekistan and ILO, we hope that the European Parliament will adopt a decision to ratify this year the Protocol to amend to the Cooperation and Partnership Agreement between Uzbekistan and EU, due to the expiration of the Agreement on trade in textiles signed on April 7, 2011.

In June next year it would be exactly 20 years since the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between Uzbekistan and the EU was signed at the level of Heads of States and Governments during the visit of the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov to Italy in June 1996.

The paragraph 1 of Article 43 of this document states that the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Community shall establish economic cooperation aimed at contributing to the process of economic reform and recovery and sustainable development of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Such cooperation shall strengthen existing economic links, to the benefit of both parties.

However, the performance of mutual trade and attraction of the European investments to the Republic of Uzbekistan does not correspond to the goals stated in this agreement and existing bilateral potential.

For instance, in 2013 Uzbekistan’s trade with three countries of the Asia-Pacific region (China, South Korea and Japan) exceeded $7 billion, with the CIS countries – more than $12 billion, while trade with the 28 EU countries amounted to only $2.5 billion. In 2014 the trade turnover between Uzbekistan and the EU countries amounted to over 1.8 billion Euros. Where, the exports of the EU to Uzbekistan amounted to more than 1.5 billion Euro, while exports of Uzbekistan to the EU – about 234 million Euro, i.e. the EU member states had a surplus in trade with our country – more than 1.3 billion Euros. While about 70% of Uzbekistan’s imports from the EU are machinery and equipment, at the same time over 60% of Uzbekistan’s exports to the EU countries are raw materials. Herewith, the export of Uzbekistan textile products to the EU amounted to only 39 million Euros or approximately 18% of the total export of Uzbekistan to the EU member states.

Textile industry of Uzbekistan is one of the national economy priorities aimed at creating new jobs and providing added value, which since the independence has attracted more than $1.8 billion of foreign investments to implement projects in the sphere of cotton processing, creating new and modernizing existing facilities. The processing of cotton yarn has increased from about 7% in 1991 to over 40% last year. Herewith, the export of textile products has increased from $ 8 million in 1991 to $ 1 billion in 2014.

At the same time, a number of Asian countries which have not ratified the ILO Conventions No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and No. 105 concerning Abolition of Forced Labour exported to the EU the textile industry products in the amount from 2.5 to 11 billion Euros. Herewith, as indicated in the newspaper “The Guardian” of 5 May 2014, in one of the South Asian countries there are more than 270 thousand farmer suicides since 1995 due to the inability to return debts. These farmers were mainly engaged in the cultivation of cotton.

It has been noted that one of the reasons of the growth of farmers’ debts is the activity of transnational companies in the introduction of genetically modified cotton. Due to this fact farmers are forced to buy expensive herbicides produced by these companies.

This raises the objective question – why while having deep problems in cotton production in the Asian continent, the web – page of the cotton campaign (http://www.cottoncampaign.org/), which includes more than 20 well-known American and European independent organizations, contains 28 news and 33 reports, published from 2005 to April 2015 which are devoted only to cotton production in Uzbekistan.

It is well known that before 2005 Uzbekistan exported cotton through international traders of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange and from that year began exporting cotton directly through the Tashkent Cotton Fair. And from that moment Uzbekistan faces pressure based on distributing generally the preconceived and biased information aimed at convincing the European trading companies to refuse imports of textile products from Uzbekistan. At the same time, textile products manufactured in Uzbekistan exported to more than 40 countries.

Due to economic diversification and processing industry development the share of agriculture in the country’s GDP in 2014 compared with 1991 decreased more than two times from 34% to 17%. At the same time the share of industry in GDP of Uzbekistan increased by almost two times and is now 24.3% compared to 14.2% in 1991.

Uzbekistan attaches priority to develop relations with the EU, and is interested in further strengthening mutual understanding and deepen fruitful and mutually beneficial, constructive and mutually respectful cooperation both multilaterally with the EU institutions, including the European Parliament, and on a bilateral basis.

We hope that objective and unbiased approach based on the assessments and findings of the authoritative international organizations such as ILO, UNICEF, WHO and others will prevail during the consideration on the approval of the Protocol, in order to further develop healthy and stable relationship which correspond to the fundamental interests of the parties, and ensure peace, stability, prosperity in Central Asia.