The core role of trade and investment in meeting and implementing the sustainable development goals (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: The core role of trade and investment in meeting and implementing the sustainable development goals (own-initiative opinion)

Key points:

  • The Committee believes that the SDGs, together with the Paris Agreement (COP21), will fundamentally change the global trade agenda, especially for trade in industrial goods and agriculture. The need to implement these profound agreements must lie at the heart of all future EU trade negotiations.
  •  The EU is uniquely placed to further the realisation of the SDGs. It has the credibility to play an effective bridging role between developed and developing countries. Greater priority is needed for the development of the policies outlined in the Commission Communication "Next Steps", and sharper focus given to integrating the SDGs fully "in the European policy framework and current Commission priorities", in conjunction with Member States where necessary.
  •  Trade was only referred to once in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but there are nine specific mentions of trade in the SDGs. As well as direct action to achieve the SDGs, we urge the EU to include "SDG friendly" trade and investment.
  •  The EESC notes that, as the SDGs are not legally binding, with no dispute mechanism, the EU must work through its own policies and activities to further their realisation.
  • We welcome the EU's intention to provide annual updates, but we remain concerned that it often appears more interested in showing how existing policies coincide and overlap with SDG targets, rather than in gaining maximum synergy through focussing and adapting such policies and activities. A more concentrated EU focus on achieving the SDGs would gain better results.
  •  There are a number of key policy areas where we believe the EU must work to ensure full synergy with the SDGs. These include the renewal of the "Cotonou" ACP-EU Partnership Agreement as well as the EU's wider interaction with those regions. That should specifically include both targeted capacity building to support and help implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement, as well as the wider joint EU/Member State Aid for Trade strategy. This is a core contribution to, and an essential part of, the WTO Aid for Trade Initiative which is designed to enhance the capacity of developing countries to use the opportunities offered by trade agreements. SDG focused input into the WTO's sixth Global Review will be important.
  • More specific support should also be given to using trade as a means to boost both regional integration and the SDGs, especially in those regions where EPAs have yet to be reached, despite the EPAs not yet fully realising their early promise.
  • The EU should also look to develop greater synergies between the 27 core Conventions relevant to its GSP+ programme and the SDGs, as far as its competences will allow.
  •  The EESC underlines the key role of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) in helping realise the SDGs.
  •  The EESC urges that all future mandates for TSD Chapters in EU trade and partnership negotiations must include a specific clause requiring both parties of each civil society monitoring mechanism to work together to promote the SDGs and monitor the effects of that.