More effective EU trade policy for sustainable development goals

17.01.2018 | European Parliament
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More effective EU trade policy for sustainable development goals

The European Union (EU) needs to strive for an efficient implementation of provisions found in the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) Chapters within EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), stated Member of European Parliament (MEP) Iuliu Winkler, in the Tuesday evening Strasbourg Plenary sitting. The RMDSZ MEP, Vice-Chair of the Committee on International Trade (INTA), has presented the EPP Group´s position, in the debate on the INTA question for oral answer for the European Commission regarding the implementation of TSD Chapters in EU FTAs.

“The European Union is a champion in promoting global free trade and the multilateral rules-based trading system; in the same time, it needs to remain a key advocate for fairer trade. The benefits of globalisation need to reach all citizens and all communities. The EU needs to strive for an effective application of sustainable development clauses included in our FTAs. Our citizens expect us to turn theory into practice, pursuing agreements with like-minded international partners, in line with the EU agenda on jobs and growth”, declared Winkler.

The INTA Vice-Chair emphasized that TSD Chapter clauses in EU FTAs are binding provisions that are based on multilateral norms, in line with relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

Winkler further underlined that FTAs can serve as a good tool for economic diplomacy. He stated that the EPP Group is not supporting the creation of a new sanctions-based mechanism that could destabilize our relationships with trade partners. “The experience gathered so far, at a global level, shows that trade-related sanctions fall short of delivering their desired results. On the contrary, these have often worked to the detriment of those that have introduced them, and concomitantly in the disadvantage of the less privileged partner. We do not see conclusive evidence that sanctions could lead to an improvement of the effectiveness and implementation of TSD chapters”, claimed Iuliu Winkler.

According to the MEP, the EPP has faith in the efficiency of dialogue with our partners and cooperation with international organizations. “The way forward is to consolidate these chapters and to strive for a more effective and sustainable implementation of this important pillar of our values-based trade policy”, added Winkler.

In its trade policy, the EU has committed itself to respecting human rights, endorsing environmental protection and fair labour conditions. The EU Treaties stipulate that all relevant EU policies, including the Common Commercial Policy, ought to promote sustainable development. In July 2017, the Commission launched a debate on avenues to improve the implementation of TSD Chapter provisions in our trade partner countries, proposing two potential scenarios. One refers to a more assertive partnership in TSD, enhancing the existing mechanisms, while the second foresees the introduction of a sanctions-based model for enforcing the relevant provisions.