Trade deals should enforce environmental protections as much as commercial clauses – study

Any violations of environmental protections in EU trade agreements should be subject to the same state-to-state dispute settlement as violations of the commercial clauses, a new study by sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) has said. Currently there are practically no ways to enforce and tackle breaches of environmental and sustainability provisions in EU trade agreements, but earlier this month EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced that she wants to make sustainable development chapters of trade agreements more effective.

The new generation of EU trade agreements still exclude the use of state-to-state dispute settlement for the sustainable development chapters. But non-compliance with sustainability and environment conditions must have consequences if they are to be taken seriously, says the T&E study, which is in response to Commissioner Malmström’s call for civil society contributions. Future deals must make the liberalisation of trade conditional on all sustainability provisions being enforced and adhered to, while the EU should try to use the review clauses in its Canadian and South Korean agreements to strengthen the enforcement of their sustainability chapters.

Cécile Toubeau, better trade and regulation director at T&E, said: “Environmental protection clauses have little impact in EU trade deals because they don’t have effective enforcement and infringement measures. Access to markets must be made conditional on the EU and its trade partners implementing and adhering to environmental provisions. If trade partners don't comply, they don't get access.”

There should also be a scorecard for the EU’s developing trade partners to ensure that they engage with and implement international environmental agreements such as the Paris climate agreement. Trade partners’ performance would determine their continued access to the market and liberalised tariffs. The study also recommends that environmental criteria such as greenhouse gas implications, land use, water and air quality, be included in its investigations for the imposition of anti-dumping duties.

Cécile Toubeau concluded: “A scorecard for the sustainable development commitments should be published annually by both trade partners to provide public scrutiny and debate. This would allow for transparent monitoring of who is or, more importantly, isn't doing what they committed to.”

On the global level, the EU should push for closer collaboration between the World Trade Organisation and the secretariats of the various international environmental agreements – the UNFCCC, the Basel Convention, etc – to reinforce environmental action through trade.

Read more:

Study: Trade and sustainable development – a chance for innovative thinking


Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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