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NGO coalition asks the European Parliament to pause free trade agreement with Japan

On Wednesday 19 September, Eurogroup for Animals – as part of a coalition of NGOs – has called on Members of the European Parliament to put on hold the ratification of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (JEEPA) until real progress is made to strengthen “Trade and Sustainable Development” (TSD) Chapters.

On Thursday 21 September, the EU and Canada will celebrate the first anniversary of the provisional application of CETA[1]. Back in 2016, when the agreement had to be ratified by the Member States and the European Parliament, the weakness of the “Trade and Sustainable Development” chapters[2] triggered heated discussions in the European assembly, supported by the voices of civil society.

To obtain green light from the Council and the consent of the European Parliament, the EU and Canada adopted a joint interpretative instrument on CETA in which they ambitiously committed to “initiating an early review of these provisions, including with a view to the effective enforceability of CETA provisions on trade and labour and trade and the environment.”[3]

Since then, the EU and Canada have started setting up the institutional framework necessary to implement the agreement and the joint interpretative instrument. However, even if both parties have stated that they are in favour of a strengthening of the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters, not much progress has been made on that front. This has been unfortunately confirmed again by the lack of commitment made at the first EU-Canada joint civil society forum that took place on 12 September.

Members of the European Parliament are now gearing up for the debate around the ratification of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (JEEPA) and a delegation of MEPs is visiting Japan on 18-20 September. Unfortunately, the agreement is as weak as CETA when it comes to the TSD provisions.

The chapter is still toothless, lacking sanction-based mechanisms that could serve if a partner was to persist in violating its commitments in the field. This means for instance that the EU has  no additional tool to put pressure on Japan to stop whaling, even though the agreement mentions that parties should respect the decisions of international bodies they are part of. Provisions on biodiversity remain aspirational too and are even weaker than what had been reached with Vietnam. According to the text, the EU and Japan are for example not obliged to cooperate on issues like illegal wildlife trafficking.

The European Commission has promised a CETA style revision to strengthen the agreement post ratification. Taking into account the speed, or lack thereof, of progress with Canada, NGOs are questioning if this is the right track to follow. This will be even more challenging with Japan that has showed no interest in adopting more stringent TSD rules.

NGOs are thus calling on the European Parliament to suspend the ratification of JEEPA until further progress is achieved on the TSD chapter, to ensure that a baseline is reached and upheld. This is not a call for outright rejection but a pause until the Commission can demonstrate real progress.

Read the letter

JEEPA

NOTES:

[1] the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
[2] CETA contains 3 related chapters : Trade and Sustainable Development, Trade and Labour, Trade and Environment
[3] 
Council of the EU, Joint Interpretative Instrument on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union and its Member States, 27 October 2016

CONTACTS:

Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare Project Leader
+32 (0)2 740 08 96 | s.ghislain@eurogroupforanimals.org

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