Improving the Enforcement of Labour Standards in the EU's Free Trade Agreements
Marco Bronckers & Giovanni Gruni ‘Improving the Enforcement of Labour Standards in the EU’s Free Trade Agreements‘ in Restoring Trust in Trade: Liber Amicorum in Honour of Peter Van den Bossche, D Prévost, I Alexovičová & J Hillebrand Pohl (eds) Hart Publishing, 2018
21 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 25, 2018
For several years now, the European Parliament has been calling for better enforcement of environmental and labour provisions in the EU’s FTAs. Recently, the topic entered the political limelight within Member States. Private stakeholders and academic observers have pointed out weaknesses in the EU’s enforcement record as well. These enforcement weaknesses have undermined the confidence of civil society and other stakeholders in the ability of the EU to promote sustainable development through its FTAs and have thus weakened support for these trade liberalisation initiatives.
In response to this societal pressure, the European Commission issued two non-papers, in 2017 and 2018. The Commission envisages several improvements in the implementation of FTA sustainability chapters. Some of its proposals are worthwhile indeed. For example, the Commission emphasises the need for more transparency of its enforcement actions. Most attention, though, has been devoted to the question of whether infringements of the sustainability chapters in the FTAs should be subject to (trade) sanctions. Ultimately, the Commission maintains its view that this is not desirable.
No attention is given in these Commission papers to the rather more pressing issue, in our view, of an effective private complaints procedure. This is the focus of our paper. Rather than an absence of trade action at the end of an investigation, the main problem in the enforcement of the EU’s sustainability chapters to us seems to be a lack of timely opening and pursuit of investigations following well-documented complaints of private stakeholders. In developing our proposal, we will refer in particular to the enforcement of labour standards included in the FTAs.
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