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They say: Free trade has ruled for more than fifty years and every year is gaining ground around the globe. The development of trade routes, the signature of bilateral or multilateral agreements consequently allow an increase in the volume of exchanges between countries.
They say: Free trade has allowed economies so far closed to enter the globalization process and lift some people out of poverty.
They say: From a cultural point of view, free trade has allowed, as its name suggests, the exchange of culinary and artistic traditions which we’ll like or not.
They say: The facts are there, the numbers prove it.
However, these free trade agreements also have a hidden face. A hidden face that does not question the existence of currents of exchange which offer significant benefits for many people. But agreements that regularly endanger the foundations of democracy, the rights to a healthy environment, equal access to healthcare and many others. must be questioned. In AEDH’s scope of action, it is a question of testing the free trade agreements signed by the European Union on behalf of its member states.
One might have thought that after the violent protests across Europe against the lack of transparency of TTIP and CETA, the new agreements being negotiated or concluded with Japan, Mercosur, Indonesia and Mexico would be subject to debate and above all, that the negotiations would be more transparent. However, it appears that political leaders don’t learn from history. When we look at what we know about these treaties, it seems that the lessons of a not so distant past have produced a reaction comparable to Trump’s election promise not to send a US delegation to the Olympics should North Korea participate!
The procedures and methods of treaty negotiations remain opaque. This recalls the main criticisms that were raised during treaty negotiations with countries on the other side of the Atlantic. If the European Union and the Commission expect to win back the hearts of Europeans before the 2019 elections by a culture of secrecy, and if they continue to use a method that often turns the discussions mixing politics and the interests of large industrial groups, into a shameful secret, it may just be that once again the institutions will have got it wrong.
But it’s not only a question of method or culture of secrecy! It’s not simply a question of modifying these problematic points for the next negotiations. Questions such as health and the environment must not be left out. In principle, health and the environment should be more or less protected by a certain precautionary principle. AEDH welcomes this … hoping that this precautionary principle will materialize in new rights. Whether for the European Pillar of Social Rights, in terms of the environment, energy, health, data protection, AEDH wants rights to flow from all the agreements, treaties and regulations concluded by the European Union. It is not a question of saying that the Union does not care about the health of its citizens. Absolutely not. But as the study by Foodwatch and Powershift shows, as Karine Jacquemart, director of Foodwatch France, points out: “The EU was attacked at the WTO when it tried to introduce restrictions related to topics like pesticides or GMOs in the name of the precautionary principle. And that could happen again. “
But the accusing finger should not be pointed at the European Union alone. Our other hand can designate the Member States. Although the latter sign ambitious environmental agreements, their governments giving ever more “green” speeches, the fact remains that the acts remain very mixed. Take the agreement with Mercosur: how can we ensure that South American products comply with Europe’s health rules? We can ask the same questions about the use of pesticides in Mexico, especially in avocado plantations, causing very serious health problems in the country. It is difficult to understand why we are signing COP 21 if States enter into agreements which ultimately will lead to a deterioration in the quality of the environment for us or our trading partners. By signing these agreements, the European Union is making trouble not only for Europeans but also for local populations. By encouraging the importation of these types of products dangerous to health, does the European Union not legitimize production processes that are often as dangerous as the product itself? Such as the oil sands in Canada.
As far as future agreements are concerned, it might be desirable for EU negotiators to remember the mistakes of the past!
Take the example of the Mexican avocado: the ”green gold”! It’s worth understanding just how important it is to the Mexican economy. This green gold which is already imported into Europe but which will probably be even more so if there is agreement, has unfortunate consequences. First, green gold encourages Mexican producers to destroy local food crops to plant these export-only crops. Where is the COP 21 spirit in all this? And that’s not all, the pesticides used for ever higher yields are likely to pollute the environment, poison those who spread the products and finally are about as good for the health of consumers as Snow White’s poisoned apple . Three times a winner! And it’s certain that there are other examples as good as this. AEDH expects the citizens of the European Union not to accept this kind of thing. It expects that the European Union, given the lessons of the past, will at some point think that free trade must be done in compliance with these three rules: democracy, protection of producers and consumers, protection of the environment for humanity’s common good. Because finally, of speeches, votes and history, rights will be born.
 FLAUSCH, Manon, « Des ONG pointent l’addition salée du libre-échange », Euractiv, 7 février 2018.