From left to right: Dr Joanna Swabe (HSI Europe), Cécile Toubeau (T&E), Bernd Lange MEP, Stéphanie Ghislain (Eurogroup for Animals)
On 5 September, Eurogroup for Animals – jointly with Transport & Environment, Fern and Humane Society International Europe – launched a study realized by the four NGOs on “Trade and Sustainable Development” (TSD) provisions in EU Free Trade Agreements. The study compares the provisions that have been included by the EU and its partners in five different FTAs: the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the EU-Singapore FTA (ESFTA), the Vietnam-EU FTA (VEFTA), the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (JEEPA) and the recently concluded modernization of the EU-Mexico Global Agreement (EMGA); for six different areas : biodiversity, climate change, fisheries and aquaculture, forests, labour rights and enforcement.
At this occasion, representatives of the NGOs, among which Eurogroup for Animals’ Trade and Animal Welfare Project Leader Stephanie Ghislain, presented the study to the chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, Bernd Lange. Last year, the MEP, a German member of the ‘Socialists and Democrats’ group, had also presented critical views on the enforcement of TSD chapters, but mainly focusing on labour provisions. Until now, most of the discussions on the TSD chapters in the European Parliament have revolved around labour rights, leaving aside animal and environment-related articles.
The purpose of our study was to offset this tendency to separate the discussions on labour, animal and environmental concerns. The document does not establish demands but coldly analyse animal and environment-related provisions, as well as labour ones, in all FTAs concluded since CETA in order to list language variations and whether a general improvement of the text could be detected. At the time of the debates that surrounded the ratification of CETA (end 2016 – early 2017), the European Parliament criticized loudly the lack of “enforceability” of the TSD provisions. Now that a new agreement (JEEPA) has arrived in the Parliament, we believe it is important to assess whether the Commission has concretely responded to the criticisms.
The general answer is no. TSD provisions in EU FTAs remain aspirational and there is no clear trend of improvement. For instance, contrary to several previously concluded agreements, the agreement with Japan does not include cooperation on biodiversity-related topics in the list of what the parties shall do, only the exchange of information on the topic, and does not include specific wording on promoting the inclusion of species to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Enforcement mechanisms are all similar, and have thus remained weak. The strongest tool available in case of violation is still to trigger a panel that will produce a report, with no further plans if the recommendations contained in the report are not followed. Eurogroup for Animals does not consider this enough: the EU should seek to include stronger cooperation mechanisms, based on detailed and systematic scorecards for each area and with appropriate resources allocated, as well as last resort sanctions. It should also be allowed for stakeholders other than the parties to trigger the dispute settlement mechanism .
Click here to read the full study.
 Click here to see our proposals on the enforcement of TSD chapters in our most recent report on the topic.
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade & Animal Welfare Project leader | +32 (0)2 740 08 96 | firstname.lastname@example.org