We collected the common myths about JEFTA and scrutinized their accuracy in a short paper. In doing so, we came to the conclusion, that JEFTA contains regulations massively restricting the political scope of action of the EU and its member states. These regulations are extremely problematic from a democratic point of view.
In view of President Trump’s protectionism, trade policy issues are being increasingly discussed at EU level. As a counter measure, Conservative and liberal parties demand with regard to trade agreements, such as CETA and JEFTA, and also in respect of reforming the World Trade Organisation more liberalisation. However, critics make it clear that these measures will neither bring fair trade nor sustainable development.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was established in 1995 with the objective to create the same conditions for all members. However, according to the view of the European Commission (EC), which acts as the representative of the Member States within the WTO, this objective is no longer satisfactorily fulfilled. That is why the EC has now complied with its own demand and presented a concept paper on the modernisation of the WTO on 18 September 2018.
On 17th July 2018, “JEFTA”, the biggest trade agreement ever concluded by the European Union, shall be signed in Tokyo: together, Japan and the EU are responsible for a third of the global gross domestic product. Due to the co-decision right relating to trade agreements the European Parliament has to give its approval prior to the Agreement’s definite entry into force; however, it can no longer be revised.
In accordance with the current roadmap of the European Commission, on 26 June 2018 the Council of the European Union is to decide whether to sign further trade agreements with Japan (JEFTA) and Singapore, as well as an investment protection agreement. The Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) support trade relations in principle, as long as they are conducted according to fair conditions. However, such conditions are not guaranteed under the a.m. agreements, as was the case with CETA.
This week, AK Europa, CEO and other organisations published data and infographics on the number of "external" meetings of DG Trade on the EU-Japan trade agreement between January 2014 and January 2017.
The EU member state vote on the EU-Japan trade agreement is close, but not all interest groups had an equal say when the deal was hashed out. Official figures from the European Commission show that big business had many more meetings with the EU trade negotiators than small businesses, trade unions and other civil society actors did.
The Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (BAK) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) support trade relations in principle, as long as they are conducted according to fair conditions. However, such conditions are not guaranteed under the a.m. agreements, as was the case with CETA. It should be noted that the scope of application of the new generation of agreements far exceeds that of traditional trade agreements, whose primary role was merely to lower import duties and quotas.
The EU has for a long time failed to reform the Sustainability Chapters (TSD) of its trade agreements. However, the continued criticism of the European civil society has now prompted the Commission - after an initial non-paper on possible approaches regarding the improved implementation of labour and environmental standards - to present a second document on 26 February 2018, which contains “15 concrete und practicable actions”.
More effective implementation, but without sanctions
Early March 2018, US President Trump announced significant global tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. In reaction to this announcement, EU Trade Commissioner Malmström felt obliged to meet the press and to announce a tough stance against the USA, if necessary. The previous day, on March 6, 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had taken a landmark decision. The ECJ decided that privilege rules of arbitration for foreign investors in trade agreements between Member States would not comply with Union law.
On 20.02.2018, a public hearing on the controversial multilateral investment court took place or-ganised by the European Economic and Social Committee. The MIC is to create a common Inves-tor-State Dispute Settlement for over 3,000 bilateral investment protection agreements world-wide. Together with the international community, negotiations under the patronage of the UN are currently taking place in Vienna and New York.