This week, the Commission updated members of the civil society on the current progress of modernising the Free Trade Agreement with Mexico. Apart from the Commission, representatives of both the Mexican government and the Mexican civil society, who were also in Brussels as part of the third negotiation round this week, participated in the dialogue.
After the US and China, Mexico is one of the EU's most important trading partners. An Agreement on Economic Partnership, Political Coordination and Cooperation between the EU and Mexico has been established in 1997; additionally, a Free Trade Agreement has been in place since 2000. In May 2015, both contracting parties announced to update the 15-year old agreement - according to the Commission this would imply deepening and expanding existing trade relations. At the beginning of the year, both parties further announced that negotiations would be accelerated. This decision has also to be seen as a signal against increasing protectionism, as EU’s chief negotiator, Helena König, and her Mexican colleague, Baker Pineda pointed out during the civil society dialogue.
The Commission has already identified six key issues for the negotiation, which among others include trade facilitations in certain areas, the participation in public tenders, non-tariff barriers to trade, intellectual property rights as well as rules of origin and facilitations for SMEs. During the civil society dialogue, chief negotiator Helena König also announced the Commission’s publication of its negotiating text for a chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development.
It is this very chapter, which will include labour and environmental standards that both parties agree on and which also regulates the engagement of civil society in these issues. Similar chapters have for instance already been included in agreements with South Korea, Singapore and most recently in the CETA. However, in most cases these chapters are to remain non-binding and without sanctions. With respect to the content of the EU-Mexico agreement, the Commission’s representative did not reveal more detailed information as to what the chapter would look like. She referred to the still ongoing internal discussions within the Commission, the respective negotiating text is only to be published after their conclusion.
Above all, the increasingly global value chains and the way how global trade is organised also affect who benefits from trade and who suffers damage. Being an important international trading partner, the EU has to assume responsibility in ensuring the implementation and compliance with international labour and environmental standards. The AK therefore demands binding and enforceable chapters on sustainable development to be included in all trade agreements.