Our vision for European trade is outlined here, and is fully explored in our vision paper, which you can download as a PDF.
A just trade and investment policy
European trade and investment policy must be guided by the objectives outlined in our principles and foster co-operation, solidarity and sustainable development. It can and must be an instrument for the equitable distribution of the world’s wealth by giving people access to resources, goods and services which are needed for the fulfilment of their needs.
European trade and investment policy therefore should:
- Recognize that international conventions and treaties – on human rights, women’s rights, labour, environment and climate – have precedence over trade and investment regimes
- Allow countries, regions and communities to regulate the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services instead of only relying on the invisible hand of the market. This includes the possibility to increase or decrease production according to people’s needs and to stabilize prices to cover the full costs of production, assure a stable and decent income for producers and affordable prices for consumers. Supply management systems that serve these goals should not be challenged through trade and investment policies
- Allow for the regulation of imports, exports and investments in order to realise social, cultural and political human rights and to pursue their own strategies for sustainable development. For example, export restrictions that enable a democratic control of mineral resources and contribute to public benefit must not be prohibited through trade and investment treaties
- Contribute to people-centred regional integration through which communities can support each other and engage in developing common systems of equitable resource and wealth management that respect and protect nature – for example, by building regional food reserves or by common strategies for the sustainable use and conservation of water and land; regions must be allowed to grant preferential market access for small competitors, in order to foster locally integrated markets
- Support trade networks between producers and consumers that are as direct as possible. Europe must respect the principle of food sovereignty and allow countries and communities to prioritize local and regional food systems over global agricultural trade
- Guarantee that European governments and Parliaments hold European corporations accountable for the social and environmental consequences and impacts of their operations and those of their subsidiaries worldwide
- Enforce binding social and environmental regulations and allow for full transparency in global value chains. People must be able to know how goods and services have been produced, where they come from and what they contain. Trade rules should favour products and services produced according to internationally recognised social and environmental standards, for example, through promoting fair procurement practices of public authorities;
- Ensure the fair distribution of income within global value chains to guarantee a stable and decent income for producers and workers as well as affordable prices for consumers, for example, by curbing the market power of big corporate traders and supermarket chains or through fostering fair trade partnerships
A democratic and accountable trade and investment policy-making process
The functioning of European trade and investment policy is not just a technical question reserved for experts. It is a political question that concerns all citizens. Europe’s trade and investment policy should therefore be open to public scrutiny and be based on democratic structures that facilitate meaningful citizen participation.
- ull transparency of the decision-making process, including meaningful transparency around lobbying and the publication of all draft legislation and negotiation texts
- A key role for parliaments from the local to the European level. Parliamentarians should set the trade and investment agenda, actively participate in all stages of policy-making and negotiations, have the right to decide on the entry in force of agreements and be fully accountable to the public
- Binding direct-democratic elements and procedures to guarantee people’s participation, for example, through giving them the possibility to propose new policy initiatives to the Parliamentary decision making process
- That trade and investment policies are subject to regular, mandatory and comprehensive assessment and revision regarding their compatibility with conventions and treaties on human rights, women’s rights, labour, the environment and climate as well as their contribution to global justice. Evaluations should be undertaken before and after policies are put in place and should include testimonies of representatives of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in Europe and elsewhere such as rural and urban poor, women, indigenous people, migrant workers, small-scale farmers and producers. Evaluations should initiate improvements of policies and, if required, the re-negotiation of treaties
- A substantive democratisation of the global value chain. Production processes and resources must be subject to public regulation and control and the power of private companies limited. The strengthening of workers’ co-decision rights, public services and co-operatives
- Encourage the exchange of and free access to knowledge, for example, through open source systems, seed exchange initiatives or patent pools and open licensing to promote innovation and enhance access to medicines. Patents on life must be banned
- Stop pushing for the deregulation of financial services and the privatisation and deregulation of public goods like water, health and education, but improve the quality of and access to these goods, for example, through partnerships among public authorities.
The current EU trade and investment policy runs counter to the principles outlined here. We recognise that transition to an alternative policy will take time, particularly if it is to respect democratic processes. But given the emergency of the global crises we face, the transition must start now.
First steps that should be undertaken are:
- Opening up EU trade policy processes to democratic accountability and scrutiny by Parliamentarians and civil society
- An immediate halt to the implementation of the EU’s “Global Europe” strategy, including a moratorium on ongoing free trade negotiations with countries and regions in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Pacific and Eastern Europe as well as a halt to the EU’s push for an extensive opening of developing countries markets in ongoing WTO negotiations
- Comprehensive assessments of Europe’s trade and investment policies, including existing agreements and those under negotiation, the policy of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the EU’s position in the WTO and in international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF
- A review of those trade and investment policies that do not act in favour of the vision outlined here.
- Respect for democratic decision-making processes in other countries and the renunciation of the unilateralism and strong-arm tactics which currently characterise Europe’s trade relations with many parts of the world
- Democratisation of international structures and institutions governing trade and investment policies and an extended and strengthened role of the UN in these policies.
We recognize our responsibility to advance and advocate this agenda for fundamental change in the EU’s trade and investment policy. We need to vigorously engage people, parliaments at national and European level, our governments and the European institutions. The current crises, aggravated by prevailing European trade and investment priorities, provide a catalyst and an opportunity to initiate this on the occasion of the changing institutional arrangements arising from the Lisbon Treaty. We invite you to join us in making this happen.