EU Trade Policy Hits Poor
Campaigners call on the EU to change trade policies which lead to human rights and environmental crimes in developing countries, as the EU trade commissioner meets with the European Parliament (22 June) to discuss ongoing policy.
The pressure comes as EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht meets the trade (INTA) committee of the European parliament to discuss future policy in Brussels.
Trade justice campaigners working together in the “Seattle to Brussels Network” (www.s2bnetwork.org ) call upon the Trade Committee to radically review the current trade policy.
This is the first consultation with the European Parliament before the European Commission releases its revised strategy in October.
In spite of its “sustainable development” rhetoric, EU trade policy-making remains non-transparent and geared towards serving the interests of EU businesses above all other considerations.
The current trade strategy paper “Global Europe, competing in the world” adopted in 2006, makes economic self interest the cornerstone of EU trade politics. In the past few years EU trade policy has shown little concern for:
- Human rights: by launching and concluding trade negotiations with dictators, like Mugabe, and accepting weak and watered-down human right clauses.
- Labour rights: by concluding negotiations with Colombia, a country with numerous human rights abuses and regular killings of trade unionists.
- Rule of law and democracy : by concluding negotiations with the coup government Honduras, in spite of the fact that the EU recognised that the post-coup elections in Honduras were flawed
- Regional integration: by pushing for trade agreements with individual countries of ACP regions, ASEAN and the Andean Community
- Development: by ignoring the different levels of development in Latin-American and Asian developing countries, including India and overriding, the specific needs and constraints of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in the EPA negotiations
- Food security: by pushing for access to poor countries’ markets for its heavily subsidised agricultural products, without permitting adequate safeguards to protect local farmers that rely on these markets to survive.
- Access to medicine: by tightening intellectual property rights as in the EU-Colombia/Peru negotiations, putting pharmaceutical companies profits ahead of life-saving drugs
- The environment: by requesting countries to eliminate restrictions to trade of raw materials, putting Europe s demand for raw materials above sustainable development objectives and the sovereignty of peoples over their national resources
- Developing countries’ sovereignty and future development: ’locking in’ countries to policies and not letting them design adequate policies to support and protect their own sustainable development
- Transparency and consultation: by offering little or no information about trade negotiations and little opportunity for real policy dialogues and given proper feed back on civil society inputs.
- Its own Sustainable Impact Assessments, as these cannot change trade policies but only inform possible measures to alleviate the inevitable heavy impacts on poor countries
- The opinion of European Parliament as this has no say in the mandate of the trade negotiations and can only approve or reject trade agreements as a whole
A consultation is currently open until the end of July for comments on the new strategy. However, the consultation is highly leading and leaves little space for criticism of the EC’s continuing emphasis on corporate interests.
The Lisbon Treaty has made trade policy an integral part of the overall EU foreign policy. It should serve the overall objectives of EU policy including poverty eradication, sustainable development and human rights. This can not be done by downgrading these objectives to ’desirable extras’ but only by putting them right in the centre of the future trade policy.