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Free and fair trade for all?

21-11-2017

With its strategy paper entitled ‘Trade for all’ in 2015, the Commission launched an EU trade policy that focussed on values such as human rights, workers’ rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. The idea was that free trade should be fair for both consumers in Europe and for citizens elsewhere. This approach was pursued in bilateral trade negotiations and in legislative proposals on, for example, conflict minerals, dual-use goods or the investment court system. But by the end ...

With its strategy paper entitled ‘Trade for all’ in 2015, the Commission launched an EU trade policy that focussed on values such as human rights, workers’ rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. The idea was that free trade should be fair for both consumers in Europe and for citizens elsewhere. This approach was pursued in bilateral trade negotiations and in legislative proposals on, for example, conflict minerals, dual-use goods or the investment court system. But by the end of 2016 the tenor of the debate on international trade had changed, shifting the focus to national interests and fairness for consumers and producers at home. The UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU and the election of President Trump in the US, together with the expiry of the clause recognising China’s non-market economy status, contributed to this shift. The European Parliament has played a crucial role in shaping the direction of EU trade policy. While its 2015 resolution on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) set the values-based trade agenda, its resolutions in 2016 and 2017 on China’s market economy status and global value chains reflected the shift in values. The Commission is seeking to balance free and fair trade but new challenges lie ahead, notably in the EU’s neighbourhood: Russia, the Eastern Partnership, Turkey and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Hacia un tratado internacional vinculante sobre las empresas y los derechos humanos

11-07-2017

Gracias a sus cadenas de valor ampliadas, la globalización económica ha proporcionado muchas oportunidades, aunque también ha creado retos específicos, inclusive en el ámbito de la protección de los derechos humanos. En la historia reciente de las empresas transnacionales encontramos numerosos ejemplos de violaciones de los derechos humanos que han tenido lugar debido a sus actividades. Ya se sabe que dichas empresas se han aprovechado de los marcos reglamentarios flexibles de los países en desarrollo ...

Gracias a sus cadenas de valor ampliadas, la globalización económica ha proporcionado muchas oportunidades, aunque también ha creado retos específicos, inclusive en el ámbito de la protección de los derechos humanos. En la historia reciente de las empresas transnacionales encontramos numerosos ejemplos de violaciones de los derechos humanos que han tenido lugar debido a sus actividades. Ya se sabe que dichas empresas se han aprovechado de los marcos reglamentarios flexibles de los países en desarrollo, la corrupción o la falta de rendición de cuentas debida a las normas jurídicas que blindan los intereses empresariales. Esta situación ha generado una imperiosa necesidad de establecer normas internacionales que regulen las actividades de las empresas por lo que respecta a los derechos humanos. Hasta ahora, el enfoque preferido ha sido «indicativo» y ha consistido en adoptar directrices voluntarias para las empresas. Existen varios conjuntos de normas de este tipo a nivel internacional y el más importante son los Principios Rectores de las Naciones Unidas sobre las Empresas y los Derechos Humanos. Sin embargo, a pesar de que es evidente que estos compromisos voluntarios resultan útiles, no pueden detener por completo las flagrantes violaciones de los derechos humanos (como el trabajo infantil, las violaciones de los derechos de los trabajadores y el acaparamiento de tierras) cometidas por las empresas transnacionales, sus filiales o sus proveedores. Con el fin de solucionar las deficiencias del enfoque indicativo, en junio de 2014 se estableció un grupo de trabajo intergubernamental en el marco de las Naciones Unidas, al que se asignó la tarea de elaborar un tratado vinculante sobre los derechos humanos y las empresas. Aunque al principio se mostró reticente, la Unión ha participado en las negociaciones, pero ha insistido en que el alcance del futuro tratado debe incluir a todas las empresas, no solo a las transnacionales. El Parlamento Europeo es un firme defensor de esta iniciativa y ha alentado a la Unión a adoptar un enfoque positivo y constructivo.

Structural reform support programme 2017-2020

16-06-2017

Structural reforms have been identified as crucial to accelerating economic recovery, boosting growth and reducing unemployment. In November 2015, the European Commission proposed to establish the Structural Reform Support Programme 2017-2020, to provide Member States with technical assistance in designing and implementing structural reforms. The proposed budget is €142.8 million, to be taken from existing technical assistance resources under the European Structural and Investment Funds. Building ...

Structural reforms have been identified as crucial to accelerating economic recovery, boosting growth and reducing unemployment. In November 2015, the European Commission proposed to establish the Structural Reform Support Programme 2017-2020, to provide Member States with technical assistance in designing and implementing structural reforms. The proposed budget is €142.8 million, to be taken from existing technical assistance resources under the European Structural and Investment Funds. Building on experience relating to reforms in Greece and Cyprus, the programme aims to improve administrative and institutional capacity, to facilitate better implementation of EU law, in particular the country-specific recommendations issued under the European Semester, more efficient use of EU funds and the introduction of growth-enhancing structural reforms. Agreement was reached in interinstitutional negotiations in February 2017, and the EP plenary vote took place in April. The adopted regulation (EU) 2017/825 was signed on 17 May and published in the Official Journal on 19 May 2017. Fourth edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Labour rights in Export Processing Zones with a focus on GSP+ beneficiary countries

15-06-2017

The European Union’s GSP+ scheme provides trade concessions to beneficiary countries and obliges them to ratify and effectively implement key international conventions on human rights and labour rights. The sectoral gains of GSP+ have thus far been concentrated on exports of apparel, textiles and processed fish. Such sectors are often located in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) where the governance of labour rights may differ from the rest of the country and fall below international legal standards ...

The European Union’s GSP+ scheme provides trade concessions to beneficiary countries and obliges them to ratify and effectively implement key international conventions on human rights and labour rights. The sectoral gains of GSP+ have thus far been concentrated on exports of apparel, textiles and processed fish. Such sectors are often located in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) where the governance of labour rights may differ from the rest of the country and fall below international legal standards. This study examines the apparel sectors of Pakistan, Mongolia and Sri Lanka and the processed fish sector of the Philippines. The importance of EPZs to exports under the GSP+ varies by country and sector. Only in Pakistan are EPZs legally exempt from rights relating to freedom of association and collective bargaining. But restrictions on these and other rights in practice remain widespread, and are not confined to EPZs. Efforts to promote labour rights through the GSP+ should focus on key export sectors benefitting from the scheme and consider EPZs alongside other sites of the supply chain where exploited workers are based.

EU flagship initiative on the garment sector

21-04-2017

After the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, the European Commission pledged to table an EU-wide flagship initiative to boost responsible management of the garment industry. To date, this initiative has yet to be launched. A motion for a Parliament resolution, due to be voted at the April II part-session, calls on the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal and focuses, among other things, on introducing mandatory due diligence for the supply chains in the industry.

After the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, the European Commission pledged to table an EU-wide flagship initiative to boost responsible management of the garment industry. To date, this initiative has yet to be launched. A motion for a Parliament resolution, due to be voted at the April II part-session, calls on the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal and focuses, among other things, on introducing mandatory due diligence for the supply chains in the industry.

Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

06-01-2017

This study reviews the progress of implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in non-EU countries, five years after their unanimous adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. Much progress has already been achieved, with i.a. relevant key international standards like OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises becoming aligned with the UNGPs, new tools being developed to provide guidance to governments and stakeholders and a basis being set ...

This study reviews the progress of implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in non-EU countries, five years after their unanimous adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. Much progress has already been achieved, with i.a. relevant key international standards like OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises becoming aligned with the UNGPs, new tools being developed to provide guidance to governments and stakeholders and a basis being set for constructive discussion. This led to increased awareness and better understanding, building trust and engagement among various stakeholders. Yet, despite all efforts, business-related human rights abuse is still a serious problem. Further implementation of the UNGPs and related instruments is thus necessary, with special emphasis needed on access to remedy and justice for victims of business-related abuses. Less declaration and more real political will is needed, as states’ commitments to develop National Action Plans implementing the Guiding Principles have been far too slow to materialise, with only twelve NAPs being launched to date. Yet, the number of ongoing processes is promising, particularly in South America, although we have yet to see how meaningful and future action oriented their outcomes will be.

Autor externo

Beata FARACIK, Human Rights Expert, President of the Board, Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, Poland

EU Trade Policy and the Wildlife Trade

06-12-2016

The wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. The legal trade into the EU alone is worth EUR 100 billion annually, while the global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between EUR 8 and 20 billion annually. The trade is highly complex and its legal and illegal forms are often connected. The illegal wildlife trade cannot be tackled via the use of trade policy alone; instead trade instruments need to be used in conjunction with broader means of addressing the wide ...

The wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. The legal trade into the EU alone is worth EUR 100 billion annually, while the global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between EUR 8 and 20 billion annually. The trade is highly complex and its legal and illegal forms are often connected. The illegal wildlife trade cannot be tackled via the use of trade policy alone; instead trade instruments need to be used in conjunction with broader means of addressing the wide range of reasons why wildlife is traded illegally first place. This includes the need to reduce poverty and inequality in source countries, demand reduction in consumer countries and tackling corruption, organised crime, poor enforcement and low penalties in many source, transit and end user markets. The EU is also facing some new challenges in the legal and illegal wildlife trade, emanating from the growth of e-commerce, expansion of private mailing centres and the growth of containerisation. The EU already has a strong track record in promoting a legal and sustainable trade, while also attempting to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. The EU already has a legal framework (EUWTR) which sets out stricter arrangements than CITES for trading in wildlife products. It has played an active role at CITES since it joined as a member in 2015, and all 20 EU proposals were accepted at CITES CoP17 in 2016. It now has an opportunity to use trade policy to embed and develop this track record further.

Longer Lifetime for Products: Benefits for Consumers and Companies

28-06-2016

The report provides an evaluation of the potential impact of a longer lifetime for products in Europe on the economy, on society and on the environment. It provides case studies of existing businesses, the (non-)legal context for an initiative on longer product lifetimes, and a wide range of policy options to optimize benefits to society A minimal increase of 1% of value added by economic activities related to a longer lifetime for products would have an aggregated effect of 7.9 billion EUR per year ...

The report provides an evaluation of the potential impact of a longer lifetime for products in Europe on the economy, on society and on the environment. It provides case studies of existing businesses, the (non-)legal context for an initiative on longer product lifetimes, and a wide range of policy options to optimize benefits to society A minimal increase of 1% of value added by economic activities related to a longer lifetime for products would have an aggregated effect of 7.9 billion EUR per year across the European economy. This document was prepared by Policy Department A at the request of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection.

Autor externo

Carlos Montalvo (TNO), David Peck (Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands) and Elmer Rietveld (TNO)

TTIP and Labour Standards

14-06-2016

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will follow EU and US recent trade policy practice to include labour provisions. These could limit the risk that liberalisation results in social dumping and promote upward change. This Policy Department A study concludes that the EU could take a precautionary stance and employ various instruments that increase the chances that TTIP will have positive social consequences. TTIP may combine the strengths of the EU and US approaches to labour ...

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will follow EU and US recent trade policy practice to include labour provisions. These could limit the risk that liberalisation results in social dumping and promote upward change. This Policy Department A study concludes that the EU could take a precautionary stance and employ various instruments that increase the chances that TTIP will have positive social consequences. TTIP may combine the strengths of the EU and US approaches to labour provisions, while improving their weaknesses. More analysis of the social consequences of liberalisation and labour provisions might be stimulated and strong flanking measures at the EU and national level be foreseen.

Autor externo

Jan Orbie, Ferdi de Ville and Lore van den Putte

Improving global value chains key for EU trade

13-06-2016

Global value chains, and the related trade in intermediate goods and services, dominate today's interconnected economy. Tragic events, such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in 2013, have shed new light on the operation of these chains. Pressure is mounting on the various stakeholders involved at both national and international levels to prevent and mitigate the risks of the adverse effects linked to their functioning. Although a number of promising initiatives have been launched ...

Global value chains, and the related trade in intermediate goods and services, dominate today's interconnected economy. Tragic events, such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in 2013, have shed new light on the operation of these chains. Pressure is mounting on the various stakeholders involved at both national and international levels to prevent and mitigate the risks of the adverse effects linked to their functioning. Although a number of promising initiatives have been launched and some improvements have been made, much remains to be done. Promotion of sustainability and responsible management of global value chains figure prominently on the agendas of organisations such as the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The EU also plays a part. One of the main objectives of the EU is to integrate sustainability, with its various economic, social and environmental dimensions, into all relevant internal policies and external action. Against this backdrop and building on its ongoing initiatives, existing policy frameworks and instruments, the EU is and has been encouraging efforts to promote sustainable value chains. How best to address this challenge is key to the EU's new trade and investment strategy 'Trade for all'. The new European Commission initiatives currently under development, such as the EU Garment Initiative and the EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct, and the Council conclusions of May 2016 on Responsible Global Value Chains are in line with this endeavour.

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