The past five years have been an intense period for European trade policy. AK EUROPA now takes the end of the legislative period as an opportunity for a résumé and a forecast. In doing so, the focus is on criticism aimed at the protection of corporate interests against the rights of European citizens.
In January 2019, EU Commission published negotiation mandates for two trade agreements with the USA. The negotiations are taking place under time pressure. From the point of view of the Chamber of Labour this is not ideal for a trade agreement. In a now published AK Position Paper as well as a joint statement by the AK President and the ÖGB President, detailed comments have been made on some points of criticism.
Regarding the two negotiating mandates of the EU Commission with the USA, the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (BAK) considers the reduction of the originally comprehensive TTIP agenda to an agreement on the elimination of tariffs as a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, we do not approve the agreement on conformity assessment due to the missing sustainability impact analyses and no conclusive limits to the scope of the agreement.
More protection against problematic takeovers – this is a prospect held out by the Regulation on “Establishing a framework for screening of foreign direct investments“ , which was recently adopted by the European Parliament. The decision had been proceeded by lengthy discussions on the risk potential of investments by non-EU countries (such as China, Russia or the USA) and on the possible sellout of critical European infrastructure and technology.
On 13th February 2019, the European Parliament has adopted a trade and an investment agreement with Singapore. According to the ECJ, the ball is now in the corner of the EU Member States: they have to ratify the investment agreement at national level. The Chamber of Labour above all criticises the Investment Court System (ICS), which first and foremost serves large international corporations.
Following a joint declaration by US President Trump and Commission President Juncker in July 2018, the European Commission has now published two mandates for the trade negotiations with the USA. One on conformity assessments and the other on industrial tariffs. However, some MEPs in the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade take a critical view.
According to ECJ Advocate General Yves Bot, the Investment Court System (ICS) agreed in CETA was in conformity with EU law. In most cases, the ECJ judges follow this opinion, but not always.
With the campaign “Rights for People, Rules for Corporations - Stop ISDS!”, which was started on 22nd January 2019, over 150 European organisations, trade unions and social movements supported the motion against special rights to take action by corporations and in favour of binding rules, based on which it will be possible to hold corporations accountable worldwide for human rights abuses. More than 200,000 people signed the petition within the first hours of the campaign.
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.