In accordance with the current roadmap of the European Commission, on 26 June 2018 the Council of the European Union is to decide whether to sign further trade agreements with Japan (JEFTA) and Singapore, as well as an investment protection agreement. The Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) support trade relations in principle, as long as they are conducted according to fair conditions. However, such conditions are not guaranteed under the a.m. agreements, as was the case with CETA. AK & ÖGB underlined their position in a letter to the Trade Committee of the European Parliament (INTA).
In the end the risks generated by such trade agreements must be rated much higher than the benefits that could derive from them. Even the economic studies carried out as part of the Commission's own sustainability study indicate for JEFTA, for example, extremely modest accumulated economic growth for the whole of the EU of 0.76% after 10 to 20 years.
The concerns of citizens are illustrated clearly by the signatures of the 563,000 Austrians who signed the popular petition “Gemeinsam gegen TTIP, CETA und TiSA” (“Together against TTIP, CETA and TiSA”) last year. Particularly in view of the growing scepticism vis-à-vis a policy of globalisation that is seen as very one-sided and that prioritises the interests of big business, the trade agreements with Japan and Singapore cannot be signed in their present form.
In the opinion of BAK and ÖGB trade agreements must meet the following conditions in order to satisfy the legitimate concerns and expectations of workers and consumers in Austria:
- Trade agreements must be discussed transparently, on a broad basis, and include the interested public. All resolutions within the scope of regulatory collaboration require sufficient democratic accountability.
- All regulations on sensitive interests requiring protection must be excluded expressly from regulatory cooperation, for example the areas of health, safety, consumers (e.g. data protection), labour standards and the environment; certain sectors (e.g. chemicals, pharmaceutical products, foodstuffs) and issues (e.g. genetically modified organisms, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or veterinary matters).
- The precautionary principle according to EU legislation must be enshrined in the agreement.
- All eight ILO core labour standards must be ratified, implemented and applied by Japan and Singapore. Furthermore, the application of the ILO’s up-to-date conventions and recommendations must be pursued by the contracting parties.
- Violations of internationally recognised labour and environmental laws must be penalised effectively by the agreement.
- Services of public interest including public procurement and concessions) must be be excluded in their entirety from bilateral trade deals
- Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS and ICS) and investment regulations are not acceptable in bilateral investment protection agreements, such as with Japan and Singapore.
- Multinational groups and local companies must comply with social and environmental standards beyond national borders throughout the value chain.
BAK and ÖGB therefor request the members of the INTA committee you refuse to sign and reject the agreements with Japan and Singapore as long as the problematic content remains unchanged.