The European Parliament's Role in Relation to Human Rights in Trade and Investment Agreements

13-02-2014

The EU has included human rights clauses in its international trade and cooperation agreements since the early 1990s. These clauses permit a party to a trade agreement to adopt ‘appropriate measures’ in the event that the other party violates human rights or democratic principles. This study reviews the design and operation of these clauses in light of the EU’s new competences and the European Parliament’s new powers under the Lisbon Treaty. It considers in particular the application of human rights clauses to investment protection obligations, and it suggests new corporate social responsibility obligations. The study also looks at several means to improve the monitoring and enforcement of these clauses, including the possibility of a right of petition for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses. The study concludes with 11 recommendations for future human rights clauses, and discusses legal and practical issues relating to their implementation.

The EU has included human rights clauses in its international trade and cooperation agreements since the early 1990s. These clauses permit a party to a trade agreement to adopt ‘appropriate measures’ in the event that the other party violates human rights or democratic principles. This study reviews the design and operation of these clauses in light of the EU’s new competences and the European Parliament’s new powers under the Lisbon Treaty. It considers in particular the application of human rights clauses to investment protection obligations, and it suggests new corporate social responsibility obligations. The study also looks at several means to improve the monitoring and enforcement of these clauses, including the possibility of a right of petition for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses. The study concludes with 11 recommendations for future human rights clauses, and discusses legal and practical issues relating to their implementation.