The Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and the European Union

01 May 1999
Article

Ciudadanas Mexicanas Frente a la Unión Europea (Mexican Citizens and the European Union) - a group of social and producer organizations - has been working for more than two years to impact the strengthening of trade relations and just and sustainable development between Mexico and the European Union. We have worked both on the free trade agreement (officially known as the "Agreement of Economic Association, Political Harmonization, and Commercial Cooperation between the European Union and Mexico" or the Global Accord) and on the trade negotiations being held since the approval of the Interim Accord. Our efforts have included several informational and consultative forums with social organizations; lobbying the Mexican Congress and European Parliament; meeting with the Mexican Secretary of Commerce (who is in charge of the negotiations in Mexico); the preparation of reports and other educational materials; and a constant effort to build bridges with European social and non-govemmental organizations (including CIFCA, OXFAM, NOVIB, CNCD, NCOS, the office of ALOP in Brussels and Espace Ainarique Latine in France). As a result of this work in defense of all human rights (civil, political, economic, social and cultural) and considering recent developments in the negotiations between the governments of the European Union and Mexico, we issue the following statement:

  1. Regarding the ratification of the Global Agreement in the European Parliament:
    We are disappointed that the outgoing European Parliament (EP) has hurriedly ratified the Global Agreement between Mexico and the EU. The ratification not only lacked any sort of consultative process with European society, but also the necessary elements to ensure that a majority of parliamentarians had access to accurate information about the impact the Agreement may have on Mexican and European societies. By ratifying the Global Agreement, the European Parliament gave the European Commission a "blank check" or a "fast track" to conclude its trade negotiations with the Mexican government. This, in spite of the fact that months earlier the EP had refused to ratify the Global Agreement before all negotiations ended, arguing that it had to know precisely what had been negotiated first. It is important to emphasize that the European Parliament ratified the Global Agreement in spite of our requests and those of many European organizations to postpone the decision until all aspects of the negotiations were completed. Among those who had requested postponement were the CIOLS-ICFTU and CFDT labor federations, the FIDH (International Federation of Human Rights), the NGO Liaison Platform with the European Commission (which includes more than 900 European NGOs) and the European Environmental Bureau (with more than 400 environmental NGOs). However, we congratulate ourselves with the fact that close to one third of the European parliamentarians voted against ratification of the Agreement.
  2. Regarding the ratification process in the Mexican Senate:
    in the case of Mexico, we are proud to have succeeded in getting the Senate to include Article 13.in its ratification of the Interim Agreement, which permitted the start of negotiations. This article stated that "the rdsults of the negotiations for the bilateral, progressive and reciprocal trade opening carried out as a result of the Interim Accord must be submitted by the president for approval in the Senate of the Republic." We will continue to inform the Mexican Senate of the potential impact that the agreements negotiated could have on social development in Mexico.
  3. Rhetoric in the "Global Agreement" between Mexico and the European Union:
    The Global Agreement contains the now-famous Depizocratic Clause, which is not legally binding and lacks any enforcement mechanism to ensure its usefulness in guaranteeing respect for labor, social, environmental and human rights in general. Because of this, Mexican, European and international human rights, development, labor, environmental and gender organizations have demanded that these obligations be considered in the commercial negotiations before the Global Agreement is ratified.
  4. Total disregard for asymmetries:
    The Global Agreement makes no mention of the abysmal economic and social asymmetries that exist between Mexico and the European Union. The Agreement is one more mechanism in the globalization process designed to benefit large transnational corporations. It in no way anticipates the "social dumping" that could take place to the detriment of workers in both Europe and Mexico. It doesn't even anticipate any compensatory mechanism or funds for economic harmonization, like those that exist to help harmonize social standards and asymmetries within the European Union. Instead, the Global Agreement between Mexico and the EU offers largescale capital an agreement similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  5. A Mexico-European Union Free Trade Agreement
    In the document called "Trade Agreement and Everything Related to Trade", the negotiators for the governments, the European Union and the Commission demand the deregulation of trade and investment in the shortest periods possible. In sum, they establish the same trade treatment imposed on Mexico by the US and Canadian governments, which has been so detrimental for workers and the environment. A similar agreement with the European Union would further deepen existing economic and social inequalities in Mexico and around the world. Aside from the huge earnings of a handful of businesses favored by the government, NAFTA's economic, social, environmental and cultural impacts have negatively affected and transformed the entire country. We can not yield to pressure from European corporations - which appear to have converted the European Council, the Commission, and numerous Euro-parliamentarians into their spokespeople - to be given the same conditions that our northern neighbors were given by the Mexican government. It is profoundly unjust that they force those people who are struggling just to survive (the numbers of whom are growing as a result of structural adjustment policies) to compete with each other while at the same time forcing them to compete with European sectors that receive millions in subsidies. Our position - which is that of many Mexican producers, especially in the countryside - is clear: either hamionize subsidies or exclude these vulnerable sectors from the negotiations!
  6. We demand greater participation in decision making for Mexican producers and civil organizations:
    In the free trade negotiations between Mexico and the European Union, the only agency with official consultative status with the Mexican government is the COECE (Coordinator of Business Organizations for Foreign Trade). This group acts in the name of all Mexican producers, although it is far from representing the majority of them, and even further from representing all of society. In spite of our continuous efforts, the Mexican government pays little or no attention to our demands and proposals. And, in spite of the fact that the Senate has to approve the Global Agreement, our trade "representatives" have declared the issue concluded. In other words. they are not open to further dialogue on human rights issues.
  7. The Mexican people demand respect for human rights:
    It is unjust and unacceptable that the trade and investment lobbies use rhetoric and demagoguery to promote their interests. This is the case of the Global Agreement between the EU and Mexico. Instead of establishing concrete mechanisms to ensure compliance with human rights, social development and democracy, they simply use these terms in statements of good intentions. In Mexico, noncompliance with all these rights and the lack of adequate economic policies for 'ust and equitable social development have been extensively documented and distributed to all sides in the negotiations (see references at the end). But the EU negotiators seem to only listen to the Mexican government, whose version of the Mexican reality is far from truthful. Numerous non-govemmental organizations - both in Mexico and internationally (for example, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc.) a have spent years documenting the continuous and systematic violation of human rights in our country.
  8. The agreements between Mexico and the European Union, "Another MAI Clone":
    The Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI), whose passage was defeated in its original forum (the OECD) by hundreds of social organizations, has now multiplied into a series of bilateral accords. Clauses from the MAI, which are basically designed to award investors all possible advantages and guarantees over the rights of citizens, are included in the free trade agreement between Mexico and the European Union. Aspects relating to the exchange of commercial goods serve to very effectively mask the true intentions of corporations: to deepen financial deregulation and promote mechanisms to develop and protect foreign investment and volatile capital without regard for the potential effects on society.
  9. The Mexico-EU Agreement: A model for the next Rio Summit.
    In spite of all the rhetoric around the Summit to be held among heads of state in Rio de Janeiro in June 1999, the agreement between Mexico and the EU will be the model offered to the rest of Latin America. This is the time to raise our voices and declare that no Latin American wants to return to the colonialism of the past nor to the financial neocolonialism of transnational corporations, regardless of whether they come from North America, Europe or Latin America.
  10. We call on European and Latin American societies to pay as much attention as possible to the agreements that the European Union signs with Mexico.
    These agreements are of special importance for the future of the world. They form an essential part of the global strategy of corporations (including those of the EU) to expand their financial and commercial might throughout the world, just like their efforts to ensure the reform of the Lome Agreements and to bring the MAI to the World Trade Organization (WTO) after it was defeated in the OECD. We call on European and Latin American organizations dedicated to human, cultural, social, peasant, environmental, gender, labor, development, and nongovernmental rights to unite their efforts. We must work to establish a common agenda and to strengthen relations between the people of Latin American and Europe in order to make the 2 1st century more just and equitable, and to ensure that the insatiable interests of large-scale capital do not dictate our future.

References

"First Report of Mexican Civil Organizations Regarding the Agreement of Economic Association, Political Harmonization, and Commercial Cooperation between the European Union and Mexico", (Ciudadanas de Maxico ante la Union Europea, 1998).
"The Mexico/European Union Agreement: An Opportunity to Improve the Protection of Human Rights", (Cenii-O cle Dei-et-hos lliiiii(iiios Migiiel Agustni Pro, 1999).
"The European Union Advances on Mexico and Accelerates the Pace on Latin America and the Caribbean", (Press Release. RMALC, 1999).
Presentation of Espace Amerique Latine (EAL), a collective of some 30 French associations in the seminar: "Development NGOs and the European Union's Relationship to Integration Processes in Latin America", organized by ALOP, Brussels, I I - 1 3 November 1998.
"Fundamental Concerns of Mexican Civil Organizations Regarding the Fulfillment of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights", (signed by five Mexican networks, 90 Mexican organizations and 20 international organizations, 1998).
"Social Watch" 1999 report by Mexican civil organizations regarding government compliance with the commitments made at the Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995.
Document about the human rights situation in Mexico, presented to the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, 22 March - 30 April 1999, signed by Mexican and international networks and nongovernmental and social organizations, 13 January 1999.


Asociacion Nacional de Industriales de la Transformacion (ANIT), Asociacion Nacional de Empresas Comercializadoras del Campo (ANEC), central Independiente de Obreros Agricolas Campesinos (CIOAC), Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustin Pro (PRODH), Centro de Informacion Laboral y Accion Sindical (CILAS), Comision Mexicana para la Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos en Mexico (CMDPDH), DECA Equipo Pueblo, Foro de Apoyo Mutuo (FAM), Grupo de Educacion con Mujeres (GEM), Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT), Liga Mexicana para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (LIMEDDH), Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC), Movimiento Ciudadano por la Democracia (MCD), Red Mexicana de Cabildeo, Sistema Sur Paz.