Legitimising an unsustainable approach to trade

A discussion paper on sustainable development provisions in EU Free Trade Agreements

The incorporation of labour, environmental and sustainable development provisions in the EU’s free trade agreements (FTA) has been much debated. But are the overall objectives of these FTAs truly compatible with a meaningful approach to labour rights, environmental protection and sustainable development? If not, what are these provisions actually doing?

First attempted with NAFTA in the 1990s, such provisions have proven historically weak. Meanwhile FTAs have become potent vehicles for expanding the geographical and material scope of neoliberal economic policies. In that context, the inclusion of labour clauses in particular seems designed for little more than promoting the “buy-in” of trade unions to agreements that threaten not only jobs, but also public goods and the environment.

Following the publication of a new Model Labour Chapter by the Friedrich Ebert Stif tung last year, this discussion paper looks at the pitfalls of piecemeal attempts to attach “model” provisions to FTAs.

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