Trade relations between the EU and its Southern Mediterranean partners and their potential impact on sustainable development (information report)

Information report: Trade relations between the EU and its Southern Mediterranean partners and their potential impact on sustainable development (information report)

The EESC highlights the potential of Euro-Mediterranean trade to contribute to sustainable development in the Euro-Mediterranean area and consequently encourages and supports the modernisation and extension of the bilateral Free Trade Agreements included in the eight Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements. The EESC considers that the post COVID-19 recovery provides a momentum for such a modernisation, especially as regards capitalising on the potential benefits of a reconfiguration of global value chains in favour of the Euro-Mediterranean area and in line with the new EU trade policy. In that context, the EESC thinks that a fresh impetus is necessary to relaunch the negotiations on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) with Morocco and Tunisia, as well as discussions with Egypt and Jordan.

The EESC stresses that, as a matter of priority, this modernisation should include ambitious Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters to strengthen the commitments of the parties regarding the protection of the environment, human rights, labour rights and conditions, as well as consumer interests. In particular, the most disadvantaged and discriminated groups must be safeguarded: women, children, LGBTIQ+ people, ethnic and religious minorities, disabled people, asylum seekers, and persons who migrate. Human rights clauses should appear in all trade agreements with the Euro-Mediterranean countries guaranteeing respect for core ILO conventions.

Considering the strong negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on socio-economic and sustainable development, as well as the decline of trade as a consequence of the pandemic in the Euro-Mediterranean area and its subsequent impact on businesses, households and food security, the EESC believes that action is required to reinvigorate Euro-Mediterranean trade, discourage resurgent protectionist tendencies and remove restrictive trade barriers that can impact sustainable development in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The EESC stresses the need to support sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery in the Euro-Mediterranean area with an appropriate trade policy that fosters green growth and digital transition as the pillars of such a recovery.

The EESC considers that the consultation and inclusion of organised civil society and the social partners in trade policymaking, implementation and monitoring in the Euro-Mediterranean area is crucial to ensure that the trade provisions of the Association Agreements incorporate and pursue strong commitments to human rights and standards, labour and environmental rights, as well as their full implementation. In that regard, the EESC stresses the importance of establishing Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) to empower civil society in Mediterranean Southern partner countries, and of providing them with the necessary resources to fulfil their mandate. These consultations should pay particular attention to the concerns of MSMEs when negotiating future trade deals, as they will need to be supported in the area of the digital and green transitions.

Composition of the Study Group

Contacts: Katarina Albrechtova, Administrator / Judit Landesz, Assistant