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Australia to keep Japan and China as partners: Bishop
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 15, 2013

US group accuses Mattel over China labour violations
Shanghai (AFP) Oct 15, 2013 - A US-based labour rights group on Tuesday accused toy giant Mattel over a series of violations at supplier factories in China, including failure to pay adequate wages.

China Labor Watch said it had found legal and ethical violations at six plants Mattel contracts work to, according to a report based on worker interviews and undercover investigations.

Among the issues were under-compensation through failure to pay overtime and provide mandatory insurance, said the report posted on its website.

The campaign group put the value of what it called "wage theft" at the six factories at between $8 million and $11 million annually.

"One of the most alarming findings was the various methods -- many illegal -- that Mattel's factories use to reduce their workers' due wages and benefits," it said.

"Mattel's factories achieve cost reductions through the degradation of labour conditions... Workers at the bottom of the system are forced to bear the brunt of this burden."

Mattel, which is headquartered in the US state of California includes Barbie dolls and Fisher-Price toys among its brands, could not be immediately reached for comment.

But one of the contractor companies named in the report, Dongyao Toy Co. in southern China, denied any violations.

China Labor Watch said Dongyao, which is based in Dongguan, failed to pay weekend overtime and recorded excessive overtime hours of up to 100 hours per month.

"We have purchased all the social insurance required, paid all the salaries according to contract," a human resources official at the company told AFP.

"The workers who raised these complaints probably have some misunderstanding," said the official, who declined to be named.

In 1997 Mattel introduced global manufacturing principles in a commitment to responsible manufacturing, according to its website.

China Labor Watch said the company had failed to "rigorously" enforce that code of conduct.

China Labor Watch and its partner in the report Peuples Solidaires-ActionAid France urged Mattel to respect the rights of Chinese workers.

Australia's newly-minted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday the new government in Canberra intends to keep Japan as its "best friend" in Asia, as it works on relations with China.

Australia's coalition government, which returned to power last month after nearly six years of Labor Party rule, will "put economic diplomacy first," Bishop told a press conference ahead of her talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

She said her government recognises Japan and Australia "share values and strategic interests," including democratic freedoms and positions on regional and global issues.

"Having so much in common, it's not surprising that we should describe Japan as our best friend in Asia -- not only to say it, but mean it," Bishop said, according to Kyodo.

"But that's not to deny that we will continue to work on our relationship with China," she said, adding that Australia can manage its relations with both countries by "being open and frank."

Japan is Australia's second largest trading partner behind China, with A$71 billion ($67 billion) of trade between the countries in 2012, Bishop noted.

The new government, under Liberal leader Tony Abbott, will repeal regulations and certain taxes to attract foreign investment, Bishop said, noting that Japan is the largest Asian investor in the country, according to Kyodo.

After meeting Kishida, Bishop said she welcomed the security policies of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"The Australian government welcomes the direction that the Abe government has taken in terms of having a more normal defence posture and being able to take a constructive role in regional and global security," she told a news conference.

Kishida told the same press conference: "As the regional security environment becomes increasingly severe, Japan hopes to closely cooperate with Australia as our strategic partner at various levels and in various areas in a bid to proactively contribute to regional stability and peace," according to Kyodo.

On the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks, in which Japan, Australia and 10 other Pacific Rim countries are involved, Kishida said Tokyo intends to work with Canberra and play its role for their proposed conclusion by the end of this year.

Tokyo, which only joined the TPP talks in July, is facing domestic opposition to possible cuts in tariffs on key farm products.


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