In spite of large waves of protest at the weekend and a divided S&D, the European Parliament finally adopted the trade agreement with Japan. A sobering majority of 474 votes were cast in favour of JEFTA.
In order to counter the wrong allegations, which were still circulating shortly before the vote on the trade agreement with Japan (JEFTA), various organisations had sent thousands of emails to the Members of the European Parliament, an excited MEP reported a day before the vote. In these emails, European NGOs and trade unions asked MEPs to vote against the agreement. The main points of criticism were that even after the Commission’s own prognoses, the agreement would only generate a growth effect of 0.14 % by 2035; however, it would pose a risk to the European Precautionary Principle, public services and the environment. Furthermore, the agreement does not provide for the safeguarding of high level labour and social standards. Against this background, parts of the Social Democratic faction did urge, at short notice, to postpone the vote. They were hoping that a possible delay of the vote would achieve a tightening of the sustainability chapter in order to enable the finalisation of an agreement, which would enable fair trade. However, they were not able to secure a majority in the European Parliament.
On 12 December 2018, the European Parliament adopted JEFTA with 474 of 751 votes. However, Maria Arena (S&D) once again pointed out that three years before, the Commission as well as the majority of the European Parliament had been convinced of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS); she was hoping that rethinking would also take place in respect of the toxic trade agreement.
Last week, among other in cooperation with ETUC, solidar and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), the S&D Group itself presented the Position Paper “For the many, not the few – Towards a progressive model for international trade and investment”. It was already mentioned during the Paper’s presentation that it was a negotiated compromises, which is why not all progressive forces had been able to assert their interests. Nevertheless, this publication is a step towards fair trade. For example, not only does the demand exist for countries of the contracting partners to enforce the labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), but also that the involvement of social partners and civil society should be comprehensive and effective to ensure the implementation and development of labour protection for all contracting parties. Another demand is to develop alternatives to ISDS and to redesign the over 1,000 investment treaties of the EU Member States. In addition, the participating groups request that trade and investment rules may not interfere with taking measures to protect the climate.
Even if the European Commission praises the finalised trade agreement, representatives of fair globalisation and distribution of wealth are working towards achieving that future trade agreements are less concerned with the interests of large corporations and more with the interests of the majority of people.