Trade: time for a new vision
Today, a European alliance of over 50 civil society organisations will launch the Alternative Trade Mandate, a proposal to make EU trade and investment policy work for people and the planet, not just the profit interests of a few. The launch is taking place as EU trade ministers and the European Commission are leaving for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in Bali next week.
"The current trade and investment regime, imposed by the EU and the WTO, isn’t working. Prising markets open for global agri-business is wiping out small farmers and is a major cause of hunger. The deregulation of financial services through free trade agreements impedes tough regulation of the financial sector, paving the way for the next disastrous financial crisis. We need to break away from this corporate driven agenda,” says Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament, who is in Brussels to support the launch of the Alternative Trade Mandate.
The new 20-page mandate proposes that core principles such as human and labour rights and environmental protection should drive EU trade policy. On several areas, such as food, work, money and raw materials, detailed proposals for change are outlined. One proposal is for the EU to become more self-sufficient in protein and oil crops as alternatives to imports of (genetically-modified) soybeans, palm oil and agrofuels, which are devastating for the environment and small farmers in the global south. The mandate also calls on the EU to hold European corporations accountable for human rights violations, environmental destruction, tax avoidance and tax evasion elsewhere.
The mandate also proposes a new process for initiating, negotiating and finalising trade and investment agreements, giving national Parliaments and civil society a stronger role and thereby rolling back policy-capture by big business.
"EU trade deals are negotiated behind closed doors in the interests of a few rich corporations. The people who are affected by these deals have never been asked what they really need. We want an open and democratic process, controlled by the people of Europe and their elected representatives, rather than unelected technocrats and corporate lobby groups,” says Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.
The proposals outlined in the Alternative Trade Mandate were developed in a four-year process, with public workshops held all over Europe and which engaged a wide range of civil society groups from both within and outside the EU.
A series of papers with more detailed proposals on several pressing issues accompanies the main text. The proposals will form the basis of an EU-wide campaign to make trade and investment work for people and the environment, which will first focus on the European elections next May, asking parliamentary candidates to pledge support for the Alternative Trade Mandate.
"At a time of multiple global crises, the European Parliament needs MEPs who will stand up for trade rules that work for people and the planet. We need MEPs who will bring trade deals out of the shadows and into the light. We call on MEP candidates to stand up for democratic trade and investment rules that serve people, the economy and the environment at large - not just the profit interests of a few,” says Amélie Canonne, co-ordinator of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.
The Alternative Trade Mandate will be launched in Brussels during an assembly this afternoon, where speakers from the global south, crisis-struck countries in Europe, trade unions, migrant groups and the European Parliament will comment on the proposals. Tomorrow, a "walk of resistance and alternatives” will take place through the EU quarter