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Three critical issues in EU-UK relations

08-06-2020

Following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) on 1 February 2020, the EU and the UK launched negotiations on a new partnership agreement, to come into effect at the end of the transition period, scheduled for 31 December 2020. The negotiations are intended to address nearly all the domains covered in the Political Declaration negotiated by both parties alongside the Withdrawal Agreement, including trade and economics, fisheries, thematic cooperation, and internal ...

Following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) on 1 February 2020, the EU and the UK launched negotiations on a new partnership agreement, to come into effect at the end of the transition period, scheduled for 31 December 2020. The negotiations are intended to address nearly all the domains covered in the Political Declaration negotiated by both parties alongside the Withdrawal Agreement, including trade and economics, fisheries, thematic cooperation, and internal and external security. As far as negotiations on the future economic relationship are concerned, while the parties agree in principle on an exceptional zero-tariff and zero-quota comprehensive and balanced free trade agreement (FTA) aiming for as 'frictionless' trade as possible, they still disagree on major aspects of the economic partnership, especially fisheries and level playing-field (LPF) commitments. The EU wants the future agreement in the fisheries domain to retain the status quo as far as possible, including reciprocal access to waters in return for access to markets and quota-shares that are based on historical fishing patterns. The EU also insists that an effective LPF would ensure fair competition. After the third round of talks, which took place in May 2020, the UK's chief negotiator, David Frost, said that the EU proposal on fisheries was ‘simply not realistic’, and it was unacceptable that the LPF binds the UK to EU law or standards; if need be, the UK would aim for a less ambitious FTA. The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that negotiating an FTA providing for tariffs would be far more time-consuming, and the EU would still demand the same LPF commitments because 'open and fair competition is not a "nice-to-have", it is a "must-have" '. Following the fourth round of negotiations, from 2 to 5 June, the positions therefore still seemed irreconcilable. However, the long stand-off in the earlier negotiations on UK withdrawal had seemed equally irreconcilable before the final agreement was reached and then ratified. One area in which the two sides did manage to agree in those negotiations is the financial settlement included in the Withdrawal Agreement. While that settlement is now being implemented, it had initially been seen as one of the more difficult areas of the withdrawal negotiations.

The future of sustainable development chapters in EU free trade agreements

23-07-2018

Sustainable development is an important part of the EU trade policy since it gets on meeting the needs of the present whilst ensuring future generations can meet their own needs. All EU FTAs include a Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter, which seeks to ensure that partners follow international requirements in the three pillars that compose sustainable development: economic, environmental and social. The adoption of the UN Agenda 2030 in 2015, which sets 17 Sustainable Development Goals ...

Sustainable development is an important part of the EU trade policy since it gets on meeting the needs of the present whilst ensuring future generations can meet their own needs. All EU FTAs include a Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter, which seeks to ensure that partners follow international requirements in the three pillars that compose sustainable development: economic, environmental and social. The adoption of the UN Agenda 2030 in 2015, which sets 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, and the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, have pushed the Commission to review its TSD chapter and to table a new proposal, identifying 15 action points drawn from the large debate with member states, the European Parliament as well as the civil society launched eight months before. In order to feed the forthcoming debates within the European Union institutions, academic experts in the three dimensions of the sustainable development as well as representatives of the European Union institutions have been invited to the workshop to share their views, not only on the binding aspect of TSD provisions, but also on how various European Union policies can be worked together to achieve the best results.

Parlamendiväline autor

Mr Damian RAESS Ms Evita SCHMIEG Mr Tancrède VOITURIEZ

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.

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.

Parlamendiväline autor

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

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.

Parlamendiväline autor

Jan Orbie, Ferdi de Ville and Lore van den Putte

Environmental and Social Standards in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with West Africa: A Comparison to Other EPAs

02-06-2015

Although negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were launched with seven regions in 2002 – with the expectation that they would be concluded within five years – only one full EPA was in force by March 2015: the agreement between the EU and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM). A few interim EPAs are being implemented, including one for Eastern and Southern Africa. This briefing compares the principal provisions on social and environmental standards in the EPA with West Africa to the provisions ...

Although negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were launched with seven regions in 2002 – with the expectation that they would be concluded within five years – only one full EPA was in force by March 2015: the agreement between the EU and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM). A few interim EPAs are being implemented, including one for Eastern and Southern Africa. This briefing compares the principal provisions on social and environmental standards in the EPA with West Africa to the provisions in the CARIFORUM EPA and the interim EPA for Eastern and Southern Africa. In general, the CARIFORUM EPA contains the widest set of environmental and socials standards, as well as the most specific provisions, including on monitoring and dispute settlement procedures. While less comprehensive, the West Africa EPA also contains references to social and environmental objectives; the West Africa text confirms provisions in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and includes a 'non-execution clause', which allows the EU to take measures in cases of human rights violations. The divergences between EPAs may well derive from different negotiating contexts. All EPAs will face a challenge when the Cotonou Agreement expires, as their non-execution clauses are linked to Cotonou.

The US and EU Free Trade Agreements with Peru and Colombia: A Comparison

28-02-2014

On 1 March and 1 August 2013 respectively, the EU’s trade agreements (TAs) with Peru and Colombia entered into force, one year after the US trade promotion agreement (TPA) with Colombia and four years after the US TPA with Peru. They are all second-generation free trade agreements, focused not only on removing tariffs on goods but also on liberalising services, public procurement and investment. While it is too early to verify the effects of these agreements, three years of statistics on bilateral ...

On 1 March and 1 August 2013 respectively, the EU’s trade agreements (TAs) with Peru and Colombia entered into force, one year after the US trade promotion agreement (TPA) with Colombia and four years after the US TPA with Peru. They are all second-generation free trade agreements, focused not only on removing tariffs on goods but also on liberalising services, public procurement and investment. While it is too early to verify the effects of these agreements, three years of statistics on bilateral Peru/US trade demonstrate a growing trend of trade in goods, even if it is impossible at this stage to establish a causality link with the US trade pact. With the exception of the US-Peru TPA, the future impact of the agreements can only be assessed by means of impact analysis reports which are between five and eight years old, and according to which the EU’s gains will be more significant than those of the USA. While these results are questionable because of the different methodologies used, a sector-by-sector analysis of the differences between the trade agreements concluded by the EU and by the USA will help in understanding how second-generation agreements are shaped by different trade policy options and negotiating techniques.

Addressing Contemporary Forms of Slavery in EU External Policy

04-12-2013

Contemporary slavery is the exercise of the powers attaching to the right of ownership-control over a person by another su ch as a person might control a thing. There are an estimated 30 million slaves in the world today, including 1.1 million sslaves in Eu rope. Recognizing that human trafficking is not in itself slavery, but rather a mechanism or conduit that brings a minority of the world’s ens laved peopl e into slaverry, the EU should shift its focus very clearly from trafficking to slavery. ...

Contemporary slavery is the exercise of the powers attaching to the right of ownership-control over a person by another su ch as a person might control a thing. There are an estimated 30 million slaves in the world today, including 1.1 million sslaves in Eu rope. Recognizing that human trafficking is not in itself slavery, but rather a mechanism or conduit that brings a minority of the world’s ens laved peopl e into slaverry, the EU should shift its focus very clearly from trafficking to slavery. EU anti-slavery efforrts might include new research, trade agreements targeting slave-made goods that entt er the European economy, and slavery inspectorates in Member States. This more comprehensive strategy should not be limited to trafficking victims but also aimed at tthe many people who are enslaved without a trafficking process . The EU m ust think bi gger than it has done so far and aim for a slave-free Europe and eventually a slave-freee world. It i s not possible to fully separate internal from external policy with regard to the EU’s response to human trafficking and modern slavery, and so this report attempts to demonstrate the link between the two and recommend specific actions.

Parlamendiväline autor

Kevin BALES (Wilberforce Institute for the Briefing paper of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, the UK) and Zoe TRODD (University of Nottingham, the UK)

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