Lecture: Improving the sustainability of EU Free Trade Agreements

26 September 2018
  • Starts at: 16:00h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Instituut and CLEER
  • Address: R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22
    2517 JN The Hague
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For nearly a decade, the European Union has included so-called trade and sustainability chapters (FTAs) in its free trade agreements. These chapters must ensure that trade and investment liberalisation does not lead to a deterioration in environmental and labour conditions. A new academic lecture by Dr Wybe Douma on September 26 will address the question: do these chapters really work in practice? And how could we improve them?

The recent free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA), and the proposals for a new EU-Mercosur trade agreement with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, both contain chapters that must ensure workers' rights, and help us meet environmental and climate objectives. Consensus exists, though, that such chapters need to be improved. Two informal discussion documents, so called ‘non papers’, of the European Commission confirmed this. They encompass various options for review and improvement.

Carrot and stick
According to Dr Wybe Douma, it is interesting to see that the European Commission is opposing the options of legally enforceable sustainability norms. Douma: “Instead of implementing legally enforceable sustainability norms, the Commission prefers to use the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. The US, for instance, has enforceable sustainability norms.We have to ask ourselves whether persuasion alone suffices.” Another topic for debate is why the Commission would like to introduce the possibility for investors to bring claims under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) rules of the Investor Court System (ICS), but deny environmental NGOs or trade unions the right to bring legal claims.

CLEER Lecture

The CLEER lecture by Dr. Wybe Douma will focus on possible improvements to the FTAs and use examples of the CETA and the EU-Mercosur negotiations. Topics are:

- The Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment System that should be used by the Commission and EU negotiators during the FTA negotiations;

- The involvement of stakeholders;

- The design of sustainability provisions regarding protection of the environment and labour rights in EU FTAs;

- The question whether the Investor Court System is in conformity with EU law;

-The manner in which the sustainability provisions are applied.

Centre for the Law of EU External Relations (CLEER)
Hosted by T.M.C. Asser Instituut, the Centre for the Law of EU External Relations, established in 2008, is a forum for debate and an authoritative research interface between academia and practice dealing with the legal aspects of the role of the EU in the world.