EU Trade policy promotes sustainability and human rights
The European Commission and the EU High Representative published today the first report on the concrete effects of the GSP+, the EU trade policy instrument devised to encourage third countries to comply with core international standards in the areas of human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and good governance
Through this system, which builds on the existing Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), the countries involved pay no duties when exporting a range of products to the EU. In return, they must have ratified 27 core international conventions – including the United Nations (UN) conventions on human rights and the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on labour rights – and agree to cooperate in monitoring their implementation. Today’s report provides the first compliance assessment.
High Representative / Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini said: “Development is deeply linked not only to economic growth but also to social improvements. That is why the EU is working, together with the 14 countries involved in the GSP+, to improve the situation on human rights, with a particular focus on labour rights, social justice, environmental protection and good governance. The 14 countries have shown political and institutional engagement, which needs to be followed up also by implementation. We have not fully achieved all the goals yet. Making a difference on the ground is what counts and this will be at the heart of the EU’s monitoring and dialogue during the next 2-year reporting period.”
EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström stated: “We have done much work over the past two years, engaging with vulnerable countries who asked for enhanced access to the EU market. All 14 countries that benefit from this arrangement have made significant efforts to improve the situation as regards human rights, labour rights, environmental protection, and good governance. However, the situation is far from perfect. Progress is slow, as this report clearly shows; but with this report, we have identified shortcomings, which equips us with better knowledge and tools to make improvements in the years to come. We will now continue with our dialogue and cooperation to make sure that the countries continue to implement the 27 conventions.”
The 14 countries covered in the report are Armenia, Bolivia, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Mongolia, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and the Philippines.
According to the report, all 14 GSP+ beneficiary countries demonstrated progress. They strengthened their domestic institutions responsible for an effective implementation of the 27 key international conventions, improved relations with the international bodies – including various UN agencies – responsible for monitoring of the conventions’ implementation, and upgraded their reporting activities. These are significant steps paving the way towards further practical changes. In areas where progress has been slower, the EU will engage in dialogue with these countries in order to find ways of speeding up the process.
Intensive contacts between the GSP+ countries, the European Commission and the EEAS have allowed for a detailed assessment of each country’s progress, as well as of the main challenges and working priorities for the coming years.
The 14 beneficiary countries, as well as EU and international institutions and civil society organisations, will now have an opportunity to respond to the findings of today’s report. The monitoring process will continue and the European Commission in cooperation with the EEAS, will follow up on the areas identified for improvement by the report. In the meantime, the Commission will continue delivering practical support to the GSP+ countries, including existing capacity-building projects in partnership with the ILO. Ongoing projects include support of local administrations to put administrative structures in place in four countries (Pakistan, Mongolia, Guatemala, El Salvador), as well as support for civil society engagement for human and labour rights improvements in all of the 14 countries.