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WTO Member States agreed on waiving patents for Covid-19 vaccines at the WTO Ministerial Conference, which ended on 17 June 2022. Even though the agreement was hailed as a breakthrough, one has to ask the question what exactly has been agreed on, and how to evaluate the result in view of effectively fighting the pandemic globally.

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With a new resolution, the EU Parliament urged the EU Commission on 9 June 2022 to ban products from the EU market, which are made by forced labour and under inhumane conditions. AK welcomes this motion by the EU Parliament.

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While there is still a brutal war ongoing in Europe, its consequences are also felt thousands of kilometers away.

 

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Miriam Frauenlob

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Petra Völkerer (Brussels office)

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The EU has been blocking the global waiver of production rights for vaccines and medicines against Covid-19 for more than 17 months now. A document of the negations in the World Trade Organisation has now been leaked, which shows the EU’s continued reluctance to change its position. AK EUROPA as well as civil society organisations are again urging the EU to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19-relevant vaccines, medicines, and health technologies.

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Workers organisations, including AK, have been advocating for binding due diligence obligations for companies along their supply chains for a long time. This proposed regulation on deforestation-free products is intended as a specific product-related due diligence regulation. It is designed to ensure that the products listed may only be imported into or exported from the EU, if they have been produced lawfully and without contributing to global deforestation.

 

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Julia Wegerer

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Peter Hilpold (Brussels office)

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After an eight months’ delay, it finally happened on 23 February 2022: the EU Commission presented its proposal for an EU supply chain law. AK and ÖGB have been requesting binding rules for more corporate responsibility along supply chains for a long time. The Commission’s proposal got a mixed response, but made one thing clear: EU Parliament and Member States are urgently required to improve the proposal to make sure that the EU supply chain law reaches its full potential.

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In a letter to European Commission and Council, Social Democrat, Green, Left and Liberal MEPs appealed to both institutions to increase their efforts to achieve a more sustainable trade policy.

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The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is a multilateral agreement from the 1990s which brought together republics of the former Soviet Union with OECD countries and established a framework for trade and investment in the energy sector. However, the ECT is mainly used to protect investments in fossil fuels. This totally contradicts the goals set by the Paris Agreement and the EU 2030 and 2050 climate objectives. Furthermore, the ECT does not offer any significant benefits for EU Member States.

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Julia Wegerer

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Sandra Matzinger

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Peter Hilpold (Brussels office)

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The Covid-19 pandemic and the severe climate crisis are ever more vehemently calling into question the shape of European trade policy. Against this background, a number of urgent questions were debated during a joint webinar hosted by EPSU, AK EUROPA and the ÖGB Europabüro: which lessons are to be learned from the current crises in respect of a trade policy which is geared towards corporate interests? How can public interests be better protected? And how much rethinking is required in particular concerning the global services trade?

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A new AK study on the economic impact of the EU MERCOSUR Trade Agreement reveals serious flaws: the deal might have a negative impact on employment both in the EU and Austria; and with a forecasted GDP growth of plus 0.1 percent until 2032, the Agreement also has economically little to offer. Apart from that, methodical weaknesses in the EU impact assessment cast doubt on the scientific nature and correctness of the results.