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Putting workers and environmental rights at the core of our trade policy - consistent S&D advocacy gets results


06 Oct 2022


Social Europe & Jobs

Following an in-depth consultation, the European Commission has delivered a review of the Trade and Sustainable Development chapters (TSD) in EU trade agreements, which is being debated today in plenary and will be voted tomorrow.

As requested by the S&Ds for a very long time, the Commission committed for the first time to substantially strengthen the enforcement of labour and environmental provisions and to incorporate many innovative elements, such as roadmaps on the implementation of TSD provisions and a more prominent role for civil society actors in the implementation of trade agreements.

Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero, S&D spokesperson on trade, said:

“Today, with the Commission’s plan to enhance the contribution of EU trade agreements in protecting the climate, environment and labour rights worldwide, we may celebrate a great success.

“For years, the S&D Group has been advocating for improvements in the way the EU approaches Trade and Sustainable Development chapters. More participation and support for civil society and a stronger focus on implementation and enforcement with the possibility to apply, as a last resort, trade sanctions for material breaches of the Paris Climate Agreement and the ILO fundamental labour principles answer many of our expectations voiced over the years. 

“We will now turn our attention to the ways in which this new approach may be implemented into existing and currently negotiated trade agreements, but overall we should be very pleased for reaching a key milestone in our progressive quest for a fair, just and sustainable international trading system.”

Bernd Lange, S&D MEP and negotiator of the resolution on the TSD chapters that will be voted on Thursday, said:

“The S&Ds and the European Parliament are shaping the content and direction of Europe’s trade policy. We have underlined time and again that universal values must be put on an equal footing with every other part of our trade agreements, and the Commission has finally delivered a comprehensive and long-overdue reform.

“By upgrading labour and environmental provisions and the role of civil society actors we place them firmly into the centre of our agreements. Strengthening labour and environmental standards is an important step to ensure that workers and the environment benefit from closer ties between countries.

“This paradigm shift is already reflected in the EU-New Zealand deal, and we expect all future agreements put forward for our consent to reflect this new European approach to trade and sustainability.”

Note to editors:

The main S&D achievements that will be reflected in the European Parliament vote tomorrow are:

  • Support a stronger role for the EU delegations;
  • Creation of the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer (CTEO) function and the redesigned Single Entry Point;
  • Stronger structured role for DAGs throughout all stages of the lifecycle of trade agreements and call on the Commission to ensure that civil society organisations, in addition to DAGs, could also submit collective complaints;
  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) - as tangible commitments by the parties of the Paris Agreement - should be an essential part when assessing whether there is a violation of the Paris Agreement;
  • The standing review clauses in existing trade agreements should be activated by the EU in order to update the TSD chapters in line with the proposed TSD review;
  • We ask the Commission to report periodically to the EP, through the INTA committee or the Monitoring Groups, on the progress reached in TSD commitments and its implementation by partner countries;
  • We encourage through tariff preferences that trade partners comply with provisions to support global climate action, fight against biodiversity loss and deforestation, improve animal welfare, establish rules on corporate sustainability due diligence and forced labour, advance circular economy, the green energy transition and ensure decent work worldwide.




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