2004-2008

Hanoi Summit 2004-AELF3: The “Creating a Social Partnership in ASEM” Statement on ASEM V was adopted in February 2004. A delegation of trade unionists from Asia and Europe met with the Vice Prime Minister of Vietnam, Mr. Vu Kho An and requested to establish a permanent Asia-Europe Dialogue on employment and labour issues. He agreed that ASEM needed a new social pillar, and that economic growth and social development must progress hand-in-hand. He emphasised that poverty reduction and employment were two of the major items on the agenda for the ASEM V Summit. The ASEM Leaders decided to call their Ministers of Labour and Employment to meet every two years.

At last, labour issues got on the agenda and the social dimension of ASEM has been developing since then.

Helsinki Summit 2006–AELF4: The trade unions prepared a Statement “10 years of ASEM: Time to Deliver!” to provide both the 1st ASEM Labour Ministers’ Meeting (Potsdam, 3-5 September 2006) and the Helsinki Summit with trade unions’ views on ASEM’s first decade and key recommendations for the future. In the statement, trade unions emphasised the need for ASEM to adopt a formal consultative status for trade unions, and to establish a permanent and constructive dialogue with the Ministers on social and employment issues. The General Secretary of ETUC, John Monks, asked for “a dialogue mechanism to deal with the social consequences of globalisation that fully integrates trade unions in ASEM processes”. They also called upon Leaders to set up and promote a pro-active decent work-based social agenda responsive to changes affecting both regions. The Conclusions of the 1st Labour and Employment Ministers’ Conference mentioned that “further cooperation should also try to involve the social partners and other relevant actors in an appropriate way.”

From 2008 and on, the Labour Ministers hold a social partners’ consultation at the beginning of each of their meetings.

Ms Halonen, President of Finland, addressed the trade union forum noting that globalisation had created unfair competition especially on jobs, both in Asia and Europe, emphasised the need for fair multilateral rules and decent work to tackle poverty and promote growth. The Trade Union Forum stated that the Potsdam Ministerial Conclusions related to decent work and workers’ rights were a step in the right direction.