Trade and Human Rights in Spotlight in European Parliament

European Parliament debated on 24th of November Human rights, social and environmental standards in International Trade agreements together with issues of International Trade Policy in the context of Climate Change imperatives and Corporate social responsibility in international trade agreements.[:]


Committee for International Trade had produced three reports to cover these issues. The joint aim of the reports was to look into the contribution of EU’s trade policy towards achieving better respect for human rights, social justice, sustainable growth, environment and climate. The reports by the Committee all look at policy coherence and evaluate how these policies reflect the overall values and goals of the EU.

Such discussion in the post-Lisbon framework is timely and to be welcomed. Subcommittee on Human Rights has taken interest in this issue and held discussions concerning human rights and trade agreements on more than one occasion during the last year, in March and April. These efforts were focused on the Subcommittee contribution by way of the excellent opinion of David Marty on trade and human rights, also debated in the Plenary on 24th of November.


Absence of an equitable multilateral trade is a global structural obstacle to poverty reduction and human rights promotion – like the rights included in the Millennium Development Goals.


However, respect of human rights in the trade policy is not optional.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights of the Declaration can be realized. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights instructs States to undertake steps, also through economic cooperation, to realize the Covenant rights. Connection of right to adequate living standard and food to international trade are also acknowledged in this Covenant.

To reemphasise, Treaty of Lisbon instructs EU to put human rights to the core of its foreign policy. Subcommittee has put these commitments to practice by way of scrutinising the Free Trade Agreement with Turkmenistan. Later the Subcommittee will discuss also such agreements with India and Colombia.


Indeed, it is only in line with the newly adopted Treaty and our international obligations that EU and its Member States do not give in on human rights when negotiating trade agreements.