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Parliamentary questions
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7 March 2019
Answer given by Ms Malmström on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-006143/2018

The EU closely monitors human rights violations in all countries where these occur, including those with which it has concluded (bilateral) Free Trade Agreements and those that enjoy (unilateral) preferential access to the EU market under the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

EU efforts in this area are manifold and include high-level human rights dialogues with more than 40 countries including China(1); policy exchanges on the ratification and effective implementation of core International Labour Organisation conventions in the context of the trade and sustainable development chapters of the EU’s Free Trade Agreements(2); and the monitoring of and dialogue on the implementation of 27 international conventions (on human and labour rights; good governance and environment) with respect to countries benefiting from the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (‘GSP+’)(3).

As regards the latter, under the GSP Regulation (EU) No 978/2012 trade benefits can be temporarily withdrawn where countries do not respect their binding undertakings with respect to these conventions.

The regulation also allows benefits to be temporarily withdrawn in respect of products originating in any GSP beneficiary country in case of ‘serious and systematic violation of principles’ laid down in the human rights and labour rights conventions listed in the regulation’s Annex VIII.

In this context, in 2017 the Commission stepped up dialogue (‘enhanced engagement’) with a number of GSP countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar).

On 11 February 2019, the EU started the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia's preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme.

(1)The EU and China, for example, hold an annual Human Rights Dialogue: the most recent one (37th) took place in Beijing on 9 and 10 July 2018.
(2)In the context of its Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, for example, the EU has recently launched formal consultations due to concerns about the country’s compliance with its obligations in relation to multilateral labour standards and agreements.
(3)Detailed findings are included in the bi-annual reports from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament; the most recent one was published in January 2018 (http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2018/january/tradoc_156536.pdf).

Last updated: 7 March 2019Legal notice