For a Free, Fair and Sustainable Trade Policy

Resolution submitted by: Political Commission 3: External Affairs & Global Governance

Adopted by the Federal Committee in Skopje on 25 March 2018. Re-adopted and amended by the online Federal Committee (FC Home) on 25 October 2020

Free trade is a foundation of the European Union and one of its most successful achievements. There is no question that it has brought many benefits to the EU and its citizens. However, the current global trade system and certain EU trade policies are not exempt from criticism. As a result, some worrying inclinations towards protectionism have surfaced.

This resolution makes it clear that JEF Europe views protectionism negatively and free trade as generally beneficial. EU trade policies need to be fair, in accordance with European climate ambitions and human rights standards and defined in a transparent and democratic manner. Trade policy is also one of the most effective tools to enhance the affirmation and protection of human rights and the rule of law, the fight against poverty and inequalities and reach better standards both in terms of the production chain and in terms of environmental and social sustainability.

JEF Europe,

  • Recalling its Political Platform, in particular point 3.6 where it specifies that the primary aim the common EU trade policy should strive for, is to further Europe’s commercial ties with the rest of the world and continue to increase prosperity of all EU citizens;
  • Appreciating that the primary aim of the common EU trade policy is to further the EU‘s commercial ties with other parts of the world and continue to increase the EU’s prosperity;
  • Believing that trade contributes to peace while at the same time peace is a prerequisite for successful trade; 
  • Further believing that free trade on equal terms fosters growth and prosperity for all parties involved;
  • Recognising that trade is also a tool to expand the EU’s normative power; 
  • Recognising that the expansion of free trade in Europe, through the European Economic Community, has been instrumental to the improvement of democracy, living standards and respect for human rights among the Member States;
  • Welcoming the diffusion of values such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights as well as high social and environmental standards; 
  • Fully aware that our system of global free trade is criticised for the lack of social, economic and ecological sustainability;
  • Acknowledging the increasing evidence on the adverse impacts of imports of certain products such as plantation fruits and cattle livestock, which expansion drives deforestation and is partly driven by rising demand for these products in the EU;
  • Affirming that estrangement from free and fair world trade is not an answer to such criticism;
  • Acknowledges that the trade war between the United States and China adds a negative influence on the global market and risks making the fair trade of goods and services increasingly challenging;
  • Deeply concerned about the increasing voice for protectionism among Member States and around the world; 
  • Highlights the importance for discussions on trade agreements and trade policies to be transparent and involve citizens;
  • Stressing the importance of involving civil society organisations (CSOs) and their active role in monitoring the process of trade agreements, as well as sharing to ensure greater legitimacy for the public;
  • Emphasising that the approval of trade agreements by all Member States’ parliaments may lead the debate to domestic policy issues, creating confusion for citizens and jeopardising their credibility;
  • Observing that multilateral trade agreements will continue to be the most effective tool for the diffusion of both economic prosperity and improvement of living standards among a wider region than bilateral agreements;

JEF Europe therefore, 

  1. Calls for new trade agreements to be democratically and transparently discussed and inclusive of civil society and representative organisations; 
  2. Calls for an ever closer connection between civil society organisations and institutions involved in international trade in order to ensure the representation of the agricultural, manufacturing, and services sectors at all levels;
  3. Stresses the importance for all new trade agreements to contain provisions ensuring high standards for environmental protection and labour rights;
  4. Believes that a central element of trade agreements is the protection and preservation of the standards of goods and services as much as the development of local producers and service providers, and consequently of the community, as fair and sustainable trade has equal attention to social issues; 
  5. Draws the attention on the close link between food security and global trade, as became clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, and calls for the EU to adopt a higher safety standard on all food products reaching the EU single market;
  6. Further argues that trade agreements ought to become an EU tool for ensuring stronger climate action worldwide and that the EU 2050 climate targets are made central to any EU trade strategy;
  7. Insists that ambitious climate and environmental targets (such as the Paris Agreement and Aichi targets) be included in future trade agreements between the EU and trading partners;
  8. Urges the application of strict climate and environmental conditions (such as imposing a carbon-adjusted border tax on goods which emissions have not been priced in its origin country) in future trade agreements;
  9. Expects the EU to utilise the collective potency of its economy to spread not only European product standards and trade regulations outside of its external borders, but more significantly to further democratic practices and adherence to the rule of law, human rights and social and environmental standards; 
  10. Emphasises that trade agreements, especially with developing countries, should pursue mutual interest and therefore always ensure the ownership of development strategies (domestic reforms to stimulate long-term trade and investment) to third countries; 
  11. Promotes and endorses a reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that will lead to a more democratic, structured and efficient organisation and will allow it to take on more importance not only in international trade policies but also in the defence and protection of the most vulnerable actors, ultimately expects the WTO to be accountable to a World Parliament in a global federation;
  12. Supports the application of sanctions (including withdrawal from trade agreements as a last resort) in cases where partners do not respect those standards and values; 
  13. Encourages the use of multilateral and regional platforms and institutions in the discussion and approval of trade agreements as a preferred option over bilateral talks;
  14. Highlights the role of JEF Europe as an opponent of the recent rise of protectionism, while also asking that the processes of globalisation be governed by a supranational and multilateral system so that all citizens can benefit from the opportunities provided in a globalised world.