Saudi Arabia: MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey (GUE/NGL) issued a parliamentary question on the EU’s commitment to human rights in its trade policy

On 5 December 2018, MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey (GUE/NGL) issued a parliamentary question to HR/VP Federica Mogherini and the EU Commission concerning the EU’s commitment to human rights in its trade policy.

MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey drew the attention on the fact that key human rights conventions should be met before significant trade deals with new countries. She took the example of Saudi Arabia and China by explaining that despite the ambition that human rights be taken into account in trade agreements, “the EU retains strong trade relationships with regimes that practice widespread and well-documented human rights violations.”

In light of these observations, MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey asked the following questions:

How closely are these constant violations being monitored by the Commission?

What is the Commission doing to ensure that the above countries are working to meet key human rights conventions? — At what point will the Commission consider withdrawing trade benefits from countries that clearly violate these conventions?

In a reply to Ms. Caldentey, Ms. Malmström on behalf of the European Commission highlighted that the EU examines human rights violations in all countries and also in countries with which it has established Free Trade Agreements and those that  possess (unilateral) preferential access to the EU market under the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

Consequently, the EU is making various efforts concerning the protection of human rights through trade agreements such as:  human rights dialogues” with more than 40 countries”; policy exchanges concerning the ratification and real application of the International Labor Organization conventions through “the trade and sustainable development chapters of the EU’s Free Trade Agreement”; political dialogue to implement 27 international conventions on human and labour rights, good governance and environment “with respect to countries benefiting from the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance.”

However, Ms. Sánchez Caldentey pointed out that if some countries do not respect their commitments on these conventions and are guilty of “serious and systematic violation of principles” which are set out in the human rights and labour law conventions listed in the regulation’s Annex VIII, commercial benefits can be temporarily removed according the GSP Regulation (EU) No 978/2012. Also, the regulation authorizes the temporary withdrawal of benefits for products originating in any GSP beneficiary country.

To support this argument, Ms. Caldentey reminded that “on 11 February 2019, the EU started the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market under the Everything but Arms (EBA) trade scheme.”  Finally, she emphasized that the Commission enhanced the discussion with some GSP countries in 2017 (Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar).

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the question of MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey (GUE/NGL) and the answer of Ms. Malmström. We share concerns over the EU’s commitment to human rights in its trade policy.

Please find below a full copy of the question of MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey (GUE/NGL) and the response of Ms. Malmström on behalf of the European Commission.

Question for written answer E-006143-18 to the Commission Rule 130, submitted by MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey (GUE/NGL) on December 05 2018 Answer given by Ms Malmström on behalf of the European Commission, on March 7 2019.

The EU demands that key human rights conventions should be met before striking trade deals with new, non-EU countries. This is the case for the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) and GSP+ schemes, for instance, which Pakistan is part of. In addition, the EU is maintaining its trading relationships with Saudi Arabia and China.

Despite the expectation that key human rights should be met in trade agreements, the EU retains strong trade relationships with regimes that practise widespread and well-documented human rights violations.

How closely are these constant violations being monitored by the Commission? 

What is the Commission doing to ensure that the above countries are working to meet key human rights conventions? — At what point will the Commission consider withdrawing trade benefits from countries that clearly violate these conventions?

Answer given by Ms Malmström on behalf of the European Commission, on March 7 2019.

The EU closely monitors human rights violations in all countries where these occur, including those with which it has concluded (bilateral) Free Trade Agreements and those that enjoy (unilateral) preferential access to the EU market under the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

EU efforts in this area are manifold and include high-level human rights dialogues with more than 40 countries including China; policy exchanges on the ratification and effective implementation of core International Labour Organisation conventions in the context of the trade and sustainable development chapters of the EU’s Free Trade Agreements; and the monitoring of and dialogue on the implementation of 27 international conventions (on human and labour rights; good governance and environment) with respect to countries benefiting from the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (‘GSP+’).

As regards the latter, under the GSP Regulation (EU) No 978/2012 trade benefits can be temporarily withdrawn where countries do not respect their binding undertakings with respect to these conventions.

The regulation also allows benefits to be temporarily withdrawn in respect of products originating in any GSP beneficiary country in case of ‘serious and systematic violation of principles’ laid down in the human rights and labour rights conventions listed in the regulation’s Annex VIII.

In this context, in 2017 the Commission stepped up dialogue (‘enhanced engagement’) with a number of GSP countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar).

On 11 February 2019, the EU started the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme.

 

 

 

Related Posts