Trade Policy Review - An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy
Binding UN treaty on business and human rights (own-initiative opinion) - Related Opinions
The EESC affirms that it is time for the European Commission to propose legislation on mandatory due diligence that acknowledges responsibility based on current standards and offers a clear and secure legal framework for European businesses. It must be ensured that victims of business-related Human Rights infringements have guaranteed access to fair proceedings, courts and authorities.
Global supply chains (GSC) are key and complex in economic activities across the world and in global trade. Economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurship are also contested by evidence of negative implications for working conditions as well as for sustainability in some supply chains.
The COVID-19 crisis has unveiled the serious downfalls related to highly fragmented and undiversified supply chains. It exposed the vulnerability of workers' health and safety, and it highlighted violations of human rights. Trade will have to play a key role in promoting a sustainable economic recovery. However, stronger instruments need to deliver on a socially and environmentally responsible business, trade and investment agenda.
GSC need to become more resilient, diversified and responsible, and ambitious actions need to ensure they contribute to a fairer economic and social model, based on sustainability and decent work.
The 2030 UN Agenda, or the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, will be one of the top global priorities over the next 15 years, yet it received very little mention in the Commission Communication "Trade for all". Trade is specifically mentioned with regard to nine SDGs (but only once in the MDGs). UNCTAD estimate that, to meet the 17 goals and the 169 targets, at least an extra US$2.5 trillion a year will need to be found - effectively from the private sector. This opinion would seek to look into this further and aim to evaluate how much of that will need to come through trade and investment.
The 2030 Agenda, the new global framework for sustainable development agreed by the UN in 2015, needs to be reflected in EU's development policy, the major orientations of which are set out in the 2005 European Consensus on Development ("the Consensus").
To this end, the Commission issued Communication COM(2016) 740, "Proposal for a New European Consensus on Development: Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future" in November 2016. Interinstitutional negotiations are expected to result in its endorsement in the form of a Joint Statement by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission, in May 2017.
The EU acknowledges the increasing importance of including the EU and partner countries' companies in the GSCs. It is also emphasised that the current interdependence of the economies may further increase due to the recently negotiated and implemented EU trade and investment agreements, as well as negotiations at the WTO. The EESC also recommends cooperation between international organisations and other relevant stakeholders. This would include adopting a common language and common definitions of elements related to global value chains, GSCs and decent work, and comparison and assessment of the statistical data between the various stakeholders, such as the OECD, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), WTO, the European Commission, the World Bank and IFM. This should help avoid confusion and misinterpretation, and support elaboration of a coherent policy between diverse public bodies involved.