On 11 September, FTA held its 8th Trade Policy Round Table on the topic of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) Chapters in EU’s free trade agreements in Brussels. The Round Table was joined by expert stakeholders from EU and third country governments, EU institutions, academia and business associations.
The debate was opened by FTA Director General, Christian Ewert with input from three prominent speakers:
- Axel Kenes, Director of EU Trade Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium
- Madeleine Tuininga, Head of Unit, DG Trade, European Commission
- San Bilal, Head of Programme, European Centre for Development Policy Management (ecpdm)
- Improvements can be made to the EU’s approach to TSD, but there is a need for a balanced debate and input from all sides on how to best move forward.
- Business associations need to get more active in the debate, given that the current policy space is monopolised by a limited number of stakeholders.
- More research is needed on the effectiveness of sanctions: parties should be careful when calling for an introduction of a sanction-based approach. We must evaluate the appropriateness of replacing a system (developed over many years) with a new and untested one based on sanctions, in the hope that it will bring different results.
- Arguments that EU trade policy does not contribute to sustainable development are misleading. A full list of achievements of EU’s trade policy can be found on Ms Tuininga’s presentation.
- The establishment for the first time of the TSD institutional and civil society consultative structures was very difficult, and is already taken for granted by many actors. Adding to the complexity is that many partner countries have different interpretations of what constitutes a civil society organisation.
The Commission is currently collecting feedback from all stakeholders on the non-paper on Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements. Follow-up is expected by mid-October, when it will determine the actions to take.
FTA looks forward to taking an active part in the upcoming debates and contributing with its on-the-ground experience, as this is a matter of fundamental importance to the work of the association.