The EU must realise how to make trade greener and more sustainable

Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters (TSD) must be a cornerstone of our free trade agreements, and the EU must be able to ensure and monitor their effective implementation, write Marie-Pierre Vedrenne and Samira Rafaela.

Renew MEP Marie-Pierre Vedrenne is vice-chair of the committee on International trade. MEP Samira Rafaela is Renew Europe coordinator in the committee on International trade

War has returned to the European continent after Russia’s unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine. In the meantime, climate change continues to have devastating effects on our planet with increased natural disasters.

In the last few weeks, we have witnessed colossal heatwaves worldwide, huge floods in Pakistan and terrible wildfires in the European Union. Human rights are still being violated in every corner of the world, as shown by the unspeakable treatment of the Uyghur community in China.

We could give up in the face of all these challenges. We could. However, we, Renew Europe, will not.

While the European Parliament is about to adopt a resolution on trade and sustainable development, we, Renew Europe, want to stress that work is and should be regarded as one of the policies to address all this. Trade has become a tool to accelerate the green and digital transitions, promote human and labour rights and gender equality, and fight against climate change. Above all, our trade policies are an important geopolitical and geo-economic lever.

The current momentum within the EU is positive. In this unstable world, we must continue to fight for multilateral answers in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to reach, for example, carbon neutrality.

We must strengthen our trading relations with democracies and set an example by implementing reformed and strong Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters (TSD), notably in our upcoming agreements with New Zealand. We must enforce ambitious rules against human rights violations, such as banning forced labour products on the internal market or introducing due diligence legislation.

Renew Europe supports ambitious trade. But only if it’s fair trade and all our trade partners respect the rules. That is why we welcome the Commission’s proposal to use trade sanctions as a last resort against trading partners guilty of severe violations of trade and sustainable development commitments, such as the Paris Agreement or International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. It was a long-standing call from our European Parliament and our political group. Finally, the EU is fully taking stock of its ability to change the world positively.

Indeed, the EU is powerful. We must keep this in mind. As the world’s largest trading block, we have all the tools in hand to address today’s challenges by setting high standards. The EU brings together 450 million citizens who are also consumers with high expectations and awareness of the need for more sustainable consumption. Our market is valuable for our trading partners. Therefore, we shouldn’t be afraid to use this fact as leverage to enforce high environmental, labour and human rights standards.

We, as Europeans, should be at the cutting edge of global cooperation to enhance the respect of our international environmental and labour rules. That is why Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters (TSD) must be a cornerstone of our free trade agreements, and the EU must be able to ensure and monitor their effective implementation.

To those who call for less trade instead of more sustainable trade, tell us how you intend to ensure profound changes in our partners.

The EU must continue on this path for a greener and more sustainable trade to benefit businesses, citizens, and our planet.


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