On 21 January, the amfori Sustainable Trade Forum brought together industry and policy leaders in Brussels to discuss the future open and sustainable trade, specifically in EU Affairs. Key interlocutors from the European trade arena expressed their commitment to building a world of socially and environmentally responsible supply chains and business.
On the same day, the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) approved the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). amfori President, Christian Ewert welcomed the news, and hoped the Plenary would do likewise, but urged the European Union to “monitor Vietnam’s adherence to its commitments under the Trade and Sustainable Development chapters”. Per Hilmersson, Deputy Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation, echoed this with a call for agreements to contain binding commitments on third countries, enforced by sanctions.
Specifically, amfori advocated for a systematic approach from the EU on Human Rights Due Diligence. Christian Ewert said that he believed “conducting human rights due diligence should be a requirement to operate in the EU market”, as well as the strict monitoring of environmental standards with trading blocs. amfori is collaborating on these issues with representatives from the European Parliament’s Working Group on Responsible Business Conduct, which is led by Heidi Hautala MEP. Hautala was also a panellist at the event who supported the view of amfori that a level playing field was needed to ensure companies complied with the same rules.
These positions align with the recent publication of amfori’s Agenda 2024, amfori’s policy position for the new term of the European institutions. In a recent position paper on more effective trade and sustainable development chapters in FTAs, amfori calls on the EU to maintain a pragmatic approach, noting that although trade can be conducted a sustainable way, it still needs to be open and carry an economic incentive – so that companies are more encouraged to promote sustainability commitments. It also supports a high uptake of sustainability standards (such as women empowerment) and recommends that parties set up monitoring mechanisms to follow countries’ commitments.
The event was attended by over 80 participants, with a range of representatives from industry, international organisations, European affairs, and diplomatic circles. The forum concluded with amfori urging the European Commission to host a European Sustainable Trade conference, to gather an even wider range of stakeholders to promote sustainable trade issues and legislation across member states and beyond. Christian Ewert also emphasised that amfori could not work in isolation; partnerships with EU institutions and third-country governments were crucial to achieve success in such areas.