Magazine article European Social Policy

Free Trade Agreements : Eu Less Demanding Than Us in Social Matters

Magazine article European Social Policy

Free Trade Agreements : Eu Less Demanding Than Us in Social Matters

Article excerpt

The EU is showing itself to be less demanding than the United States in social matters relating to its bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with emerging countries. According to confidential documents concerning negotiations with South Korea, to which Europolitics Social had access, the European Commission is reluctant to impose binding control measures in terms of the application of social standards, contrary to Washington. Social provisions put on the table by the European side are less detailed and binding than the Free Trade Agreement concluded between the United States and Seoul in April. This situation is causing concern to European syndicates, who are calling upon European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to reinforce the social requirements of future FTAs that the EU is also negotiating with India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

NO CONSTRAINTS

The draft text of the chapter entitled Trade and sustainable development' of the future FTA, to which Europolitics Social had access, refers to the same international convention as that signed by Washington but differs on the measures to ensure the application of these principles. It refers to the Declaration on Fundamental Rights and the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Principles and rights at work' dating back to 1998 and expressly mentions the respect of freedom of association, the recognition of collective negotiation, the abolition of forced labour and child labour and the elimination of all forms of work discrimination. But whereas the US-Korean text details with precision a series of guarantees to ensure the application of these principles, in particular the right of recourse to justice in the event of infringement and the implementation of a consultation procedure between the two parties at the end of sixty days in the event that a settlement is not reached, the European draft text remains vague. It provides for the implementation of an expert committee to "examine" problems of application but without specific timeframes.

"There is no binding mechanism. We would like something more concrete. A text which mentions fines, something substantial in the event of the non-respect of the principles specified in the agreement," affirmed Tom Jenkins, a representative of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). This notion is confirmed by the Korean negotiators who recognise, under cover of anonymity, that their EU counterparts are showing themselves to be less demanding in this field than the Americans. "The EU is less harsh on this case. The American administration is showing itself to be more demanding, especially since the Democrats have been dominating Congress," confided a Korean source to Europolitics. Internal political pressure is rising in Washington to the point of questioning the future of the United States-Korea agreement, which has still not been ratified by Congress. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.