There is widespread consensus on the need to level the playing field for European companies confronted with environmental and social dumping from foreign competitors. Just how hard the EU should hit on wrongdoers remains a major sticking point, however.
As Europe embarks on a new round of trade talks with Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Mercosur, calls are growing for the EU to enforce environmental and social clauses in commercial agreements.
“Let me say once and for all: we are not naïve free traders,” said Jean-Claude Juncker in his annual State of the Union speech in the European Parliament last September.
“Trade is about exporting our standards, be they social or environmental standards, data protection or food safety requirements,” Juncker said, announcing a “new industrial policy strategy” that places innovation, digitisation and the decarbonisation of the economy at the centre of the EU’s trade agenda.
The debate has moved forward since then, based on a European Commission discussion paper published in July, which addresses the enforcement of the Sustainable Development chapters in the EU’s trade agreements.