Could enterprise zones help us achieve the Global Goals?

Bendell, Jem ORCID logo ORCID: (2015) Could enterprise zones help us achieve the Global Goals? In: World Trade Organization Public Forum: Trade Works, 30 September - 2 October 2015, Geneva, Switzerland. (Unpublished)

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The number of Export Processing Zones [or Special Economic Zones] are booming worldwide, each providing a different mix of fiscal, regulatory and infrastructure incentives for foreign investment. Some researchers point to evidence that they have played a key role in export-led economic development, while others question their local and collective effect on decent work, environmental sustainability, and tax revenues. The rise of new EPZs comes at a time when the possibilities for rules-compliant fiscal incentives for EPZs diminishes among WTO member States and when governments around the world are committing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Given these international trends and commitments, what role can Special Economic Zones play in achieving the SDGs? What are the emerging strategies and best practices in EPZ management for sustainable development? This session includes the launch and presentation of an UNCTAD report on the performance and potential of these zones for sustainable development.

• Claude Akpokavie, Senior Adviser, Bureau for Workers Activities, International Labour Office ILO
• Jem Bendell, Professor, Institute for Leadership and Sustainability ; University of Cumbria
• Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director CUTS International
• Anthony Miller, CSR Focal Point, Investment & Enterprise Divison ; UNCTAD
• Raúl Torres, Counsellor, Development Division WTO
• Moderator: James Zhan, Director, Investment and Enterprise Division, UNCTAD.

Summary: The panel noted that the importance of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) is growing. EPZs tend to have a bad reputation in public and with the media, linked to a lowering of environmental and labour standards in such zones. This is tied to a growing consumer awareness of good production practices. This awareness forces multinational companies to engage in best practices and focus on sustainability issues in global value chains. Panellists highlighted that EPZs offer many benefits. They may include: exemptions from import duties, exemption from direct and indirect taxes, preferential pricing (water, energy), good infrastructure, reduced red tape and trade facilitation. The attractiveness of EPZs therefore lies beyond fiscal advantages such as tax reductions. The WTO's stance is that, in general, specific subsidies are forbidden. However, some exemptions are made for special EPZs, but these exemptions will expire by the end of 2015. The panel encouraged the audience to think more broadly about how to ensure the competitiveness of EPZs. A United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) study on a sampling of EPZs found that while EPZs are quite useful in providing services to businesses, they often do not communicate their offerings properly. The panel estimated that EPZs offer the possibility to be centres of excellence, to transfer knowledge and to have a multiplier effect on the broader economy. Jem Bendell from the University of Cumbria noted that EPZs can function as laboratories for governments – in EPZs, governments learn new rules, and try to measure the effects of new regulatory frameworks. Claude Akpokavie from the International Labour Office (ILO) raised the concern that EPZs are promoting a downward spiral in labour standards. Ninety per cent of workers in EPZs are female, and do not place great importance in material protection. He acknowledged that a cost-benefit analysis is needed to measure the benefits (job creation) against the costs (lowering labour standards), and noted that EPZs are still bound to the rules set forth in ILO Conventions.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Departments: Research Centres > Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS)
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 16 May 2016 13:30
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 14:31


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