Press Releases Sustainability finally enforceable in trade agreements

Sustainability finally enforceable in trade agreements

After years of criticism of free trade agreements, the European Commission is finally moving towards more sustainable trade agreements. But the road ahead is still long.

The European Commission has just published its proposals to make trade agreements more sustainable. Saskia Bricmont, Ecolo MEP, member of the Committee on International Trade and responsible for the file for the Greens/EFA Group, welcomes that several proposals of the Position Paper she drafted for the Greens/EFA group are included in the Commission’s communication.

In recent years, discussions on several trade agreements have provoked strong protests from civil society and environmentalists (TTIP, CETA, EU-Mercosur Agreement…). “The concerns of citizens are legitimate, while these agreements have serious consequences on the climate, biodiversity, and human and social rights“, says the green MEP.

The proposal aims to respond to these criticisms and contains several advances in this direction:

– The Commission takes up the idea of assessing the potential impacts of future agreements (impact studies), not only for the economies concerned, but also in terms of climate, biodiversity, workers’ rights, etc. Civil society organizations will be involved in this exercise, which will serve to frame the negotiations for the agreements. This will be an opportunity to define roadmaps on a specific subject (preservation of natural protected areas, fight against discrimination…), deserving special attention from the EU and its partner, with a deadline for their implementation.

-The European Commission finally agrees to consider sanctions in the case of violations of fundamental standards of the International Labour Organization or the Paris Climate Agreement. The Commission announces its intention to ensure that sustainability becomes a cross-cutting issue: a priority for all chapters of the agreements. Civil society organizations involved in the monitoring and implementation of the agreements will also be able to lodge complaints if they feel that the application of clauses undermines sustainability.

The European Commission finally seems to be aware of the need to bring our trade policy in line with our international social and environmental commitments. This is a real step in the right direction, but we need to go further“, she points out, as the Commission’s proposal has several shortcomings:

– The absence of commitments required from the partner country before considering the ratification of the agreement, whose objective would be to build mutual trust;

– It is not specified that trade measures may not take precedence over measures necessary to comply with the Paris Agreement or ILO standards;

– The violation of human rights is not included as an element that can be subject to sanctions (referred to the political part of the agreement);

– Given that 83% of European trade flows are obstacles to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, this new approach should also apply to newly negotiated and existing agreements.

It is now time to ensure that these commitments are implemented, the first sustainability test will be for the EU-India agreement whose negotiations will start at the end of June.

For more information:

+32 493 18 82 80

Camille Goret

Assistant to Saskia Bricmont, Green MEP

Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament

Phone: +32 2 28 47403 (office), +32 493 18 82 80 (GSM)


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