Trade for all: The inclusion of sustainable development in trade policy

The European Commission has published its new trade and investment strategy: ‘Trade for all ’: towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ on 14 October 2015.

The new trade strategy acknowledges that the rise of value chains demands for an effective trade policy that secures Europe’s position in global value chains. Also the question has been asked: ‘Who is EU trade policy for?’. The conclusion is that trade is for all. Trade policy should be sustainable in the sense that it stimulates economic growth while promoting European and universal values such as human rights and good governance. According to the commission trade policy can be a powerful tool to promote sustainable development.

Strong link between strategy and conference

The upcoming conference on ‘EU and Global Value Chains’, organised by the Netherlands in the run-up up of its EU presidency, provides a unique opportunity to explore how Europe can more effectively promote sustainability in global value chains. During the conference participants will explore specific steps that can be taken to improve policy coherence for sustainable development. The following points of the trade and investment strategy are of particular relevance in this regard:
• The importance and added-value of trade policy in conjunction with other external policies, notably development cooperation.
• European trade and investment policy should be compatible with broader European values such as human rights. According to the commission corporate social responsibility and due diligence should be reinforced across the value chain.
• Trade agreements should include the social and environmental pillars and should also be effectively implemented and enforced. The Commission aims to ensure better implementation by up-scaling the collaboration between the Commission, Member States, the European Parliament and stakeholders.
• The Commission aims to ensure responsible management of supply chains by continuing to work together with public, private and civil society actors. It has the ambition to further develop a mix of soft an innovative tools and legislative changes.
The trade strategy is in this regard a starting point from which all actors involved can collaborate and explore ways on how EU’s trade and aid policy can contribute to sustainable global value chains.