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CSR Asia's Richard Welford reports that the abuse of human rights, environmental degradation, pressure on wages, unsafe working practices and pressure on workers to work longer hours are all made more possible by the increased competition as a result of the new Free Trade Area (FTA) in Asia.

Yet, the opportunities that come from the FTA also point towards a new mandate for CSR in many countries.

At the beginning of 2010, China and the ten South East Asian nations launched the world’s third-largest free-trade area. Tariffs are set to fall on products as diverse as textiles, rubber, vegetable oils and steel. But many companies are nervous about how the increased competition will impact on their markets.

For the pessimists in ASEAN, direct competition could therefore be deadly for some businesses. That is something ASEAN businesses might learn fast as Chinese manufacturers seek to increase exports, unfettered by the duties and tariffs that before 2010, gave local businesses at least some protection.

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