Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals must guide the future EU trade agenda, insists the EESC

Peel - Quarez

The European Economic and Social Committee adopted its opinion on The core role of trade and investment in meeting and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its December Plenary Session (Rapporteur: Jonathan Peel, UK; Co-rapporteur: Christophe Quarez, FR).

"We believe that the SDGs, together with the Paris Agreement, will fundamentally change the global trade agenda. The need to implement these profound agreements must lie at the heart of all future EU trade negotiations", commented the rapporteur of the opinion, Jonathan Peel.

The EESC believes that there are a number of key policy areas where the EU must work to align upcoming trade agreements with the SDGs, especially when it comes to trade agreements with developing countries. The Committee urges the EU to promote the implementation of the SDGs in its bilateral relations as well.

"A stronger focus on the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability is needed in EU trade agreements in order to make sure that they contribute to SDGs", said the co-rapporteur of the opinion, Christophe Quarez. The inclusion of Trade and Sustainable Development chapters with civil society monitoring mechanisms in EU trade and economic partnership agreements is of paramount importance. These mechanisms have huge potential to promote EU values, including social and environmental standards, and they can also deliver tangible results. 

The role of the private sector in achieving the SDGs is crucial: according to the estimates of the UN Committee for Trade and Development, an extra USD 2.5 trillion a year will be necessary to achieve the SDGs and at least a third of that is expected to come from the private sector. Many companies already have their own SDG strategies. Nevertheless, responsible business conduct should be a key principle for the private sector, thus encouraging companies to act in a socially responsible manner. 

The Sustainable Development Goals are global in nature, universally applicable and interlinked – all countries must share responsibility in achieving them. The EESC's opinion points out, however, that they are not legally binding and there is no dispute mechanism. This is why the EU should use all its policies to achieve them, including trade and investment.

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