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EU Trade and Human Rights

EU Trade and Human Rights

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FCO Human Rights Report 2010
FCO Human Rights Report 2010

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Published by: Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Mar 26, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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EU Trade and Human Rights
The human rights ³essential element´ clause
Since 1995 the EU has incorporated a human rights clause as an essentialelement in all framework agreements with third countries, stipulating thatrespect for human rights and democratic principles should form the basis of the agreement. In 2003, all EU member states agreed a position on theinclusion of such human rights clauses in all EU±third country agreements,except sector-specific agreements such as steel and fisheries. This positionwas subsequently reinforced in 2009 in the ³Common Approach on the Use of Political Clauses´. To date, 45 framework agreements containing such aclause have been agreed with more than 120 countries. The clauses providea peg for dialogue, allowing the EU to engage positively with the third countryon human rights. In extreme circumstances, the agreement can also besuspended in the event of a serious breach of the clause.Since 1995, negative measures have been implemented under the humanrights clause framework agreement on 22 occasions, most frequently inresponse to a coup d¶état, for example in the Central African Republic, Fiji andNiger, but also for flawed electoral processes such as in Haiti and Togo, andfor violations of human rights, as in Liberia and Zimbabwe.
Third-country free trade agreements
The EU is the world¶s largest trading bloc and the combined national output of the 27 EU member states accounts for 25% of world GDP. The EU¶sfounding documents state that the EU¶s commercial policy will be conductedin line with the overriding principles of respect for human rights, democracyand the rule of law. Trade agreements with third countries therefore provideimportant leverage for the EU to advance global respect for human rights .The eight core International Labour Organization conventions, on child labour,forced labour, non-discrimination and basic trade union rights, are covered inthe sustainable development chapter of the EU¶s free trade agreements with
third countries. The EU encourages free trade agreement partner countries toengage in constructive dialogue and cooperation to strengthen compliancewith domestic and international labour standards. The free trade agreementsalso include specific mechanisms and structures to monitor and implementthe human rights provisions, which may involve NGOs and independentexperts.In May the European Commission concluded negotiations for the EU MultiParty Trade Agreement with
. During the negotiations, theUK led efforts within the EU to ensure that a legally binding and robust humanrights clause was included in the text of the agreement. The agreement willgo through legal scrutiny in 2011.
Generalised System of Preferences
The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is one of the most importantinstruments available to the EU in linking human rights with trade. There arethree tiers of benefits: the standard GSP, the special arrangements for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) and the EverythingBut Arms (EBA) initiative.Under the GSP Regulation, the European Commission may launch aninvestigation if there is evidence of grave and systematic violations of theinternational human rights and labour rights conventions cited in the GSPRegulation. If the conventions are judged to have been breached, all GSParrangements may be temporally withdrawn. Countries where privileges havebeen withdrawn are encouraged to improve their human rights situation, witha view to renewing the arrangements. To date, standard GSP has beenwithdrawn on only two occasions: in
in 1997 due to the systematic useof forced labour; and in
in 2007 for the widespread violation of tradeunion rights.GSP+ offers additional incentive arrangements to developing countries whichhave ratified and effectively implemented 27 core international conventions onhuman rights, labour rights, environment and good governance principles and

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