Blog: TTIP - what's in it for labour, environment and sustainable development? - Parlementaire monitor

Parlementaire monitor
Zaterdag 26 september 2020

Blog: TTIP - what's in it for labour, environment and sustainable development?

Met dank overgenomen van A.C. (Cecilia) Malmström i, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 6 november 2015.

Trade agreements are primarily designed to create new economic opportunities for employers and for people all over the world. But the new generation of EU trade agreements is also about promoting responsibility, as set out in our new trade strategy recently. This means that we want to use trade agreements to set ambitious and binding standards, to address global challenges such as protecting the environment and labour rights in a globalised world.

Today, the EU is a global leader in these areas, but we can get even stronger by working together with partners such as the US. That's why I want TTIP to include ambitious, innovative and enforceable sustainable development provisions covering both labour and the environment. This would bring three main benefits:

Upholding the EU’s and US’ existing high standards. The EU and the US have two of the strongest sets of rules in the world for protection of workers’ rights and the environment. TTIP provides the opportunity to enshrine these rules yet again in an international agreement.

But TTIP gives us a chance to go further than ever before in a bilateral trade agreement to promote these standards at home and abroad. We could have a clear commitment to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Decent Work Agenda which among others promotes employment, workers' rights, and social protection. I want to work jointly on other workers' rights, too, such as health and safety at work.

We also have to aim for the highest levels of environmental protection. We have to recognise the value of global environmental governance, including multilateral environmental agreements, to tackle environmental challenges of common concern.

Jointly promoting labour standards globally. Social issues increasingly have a global nature. The fight against child labour in supply chains can only be effective if all countries are on board and join in multilateral efforts. We must ensure children in our countries are protected and jointly push for more countries to ratify and implement ILO conventions. Child labour is still a serious problem in the 21st century, with almost 170 million children in work - more than half of them are in hazardous work. As advanced democracies and the world's biggest importers, we have the responsibility to act. Even if only a very small proportion of the worst forms of child labour is associated with international trade, a trade agreement is a good place to join forces and influence other countries do away with this practice. The same is true for forced labour in all its forms.

The ILO, where the EU is a strong player, is the key forum to establishing global rules on labour rights. TTIP provides us with the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to this process and, if - we do this jointly with the US - to further support multilateral efforts to improve protection of workers. We already work closely with the US in the ILO to address issues such as new forms of forced labour or to reinforce the ILO’s supervision of the right to strike.

Tackling environmental problems that go beyond national borders. Many environmental issues are global by definition. Preservation of biodiversity, environmentally sound shipments of chemicals and waste, and sustainable management of natural resources are just a few examples of challenges that the EU cannot fix alone. Trade in general - and TTIP in particular - can contribute to global solutions. Not only can we act together in global fora, but we can also make it easier to export and import goods and services that help us tackle these problems, such as climate-friendly and resource-efficient products. TTIP is also an opportunity to tackle illegal logging and fishing and to better protect forests and wildlife by implementing effective measures domestically, as well as cooperating in international fora and strengthening cross-border law enforcement networks. And, once we have an international agreement with ambitious targets to combat climate change, we will need to see how TTIP can help us meet them.

We have now presented the US with our first written proposal setting out our ideas on sustainable development in TTIP. It is the most ambitious proposal on this issue that we have ever put forward to a trading partner. When we have established the core substance we will go on to discuss implementation and enforcement of these provisions.

Today, trade agreements are not only about increased exports and imports. They also have to live up to our global responsibilities. TTIP is a chance to enshrine joint and ambitious commitments to sustainable development which could benefit not only the people of the EU and the US, but also many others around the globe.