The undersigned organisations from Europe (1) call on the Members of the European Parliament not to ratify the free trade and investment agreements between the European Union and Vietnam (2) that will be voted in plenary on February 11 (3). These are the very first ratification votes on trade and investment agreements in the new European Parliament. They were negotiated by the European Commission under previous mandates and were signed on June 30, 2019, in Hanoi.
The European Commission presents these agreements as promoting sustainable development and ensuring a high level of protection for labour and the environment. But this is not true. The EU-Vietnam agreements do not address the urgent challenges facing the EU and Vietnam today: the reduction of inequality, the promotion of sustainable development and the mitigation of climate change. They are not compatible with a “Green Deal” that would make ecological action a real priority. On 15 January, the European Parliament voted for a resolution stating that « all international trade and investment agreements (should) include strong, binding and enforceable sustainable development chapters, including on the climate and the environment, that fully respect international commitments, in particular, the Paris Agreement ».This is not the case with these EU-Vietnam agreements.
The European Commission decided to divide the text of the original agreement into two separate ones, one trade and one on investment. This allowed them to avoid subjecting both parts [A1] to the same ratification process. The EU Commission does not want to risk a possible rejection of the trade part under national ratification procedures and wishes to speed up its final implementation.
The trade part of these agreements falls under the sole competence of the EU, and only requires ratification by the European Parliament.
- According to the European Commission, these agreements remove 99% of tariffs on goods traded between the EU and Vietnam. These measures do not take any sustainability or human rights criteria into account.
- The EU-Vietnam agreement lacks a “supremacy clause”that ensures that international human rights law, environmental and climate agreements take precedence over free trade and investment rules;
- The trade and sustainable development (TSD) chapters fail to develop the necessary ambitious joint standards or lay down concrete commitments for the protection and enforcement of international climate, environmental, labour and human rights obligations. These chapters, which are non-binding and non-enforceable, are excluded from the agreements’ dispute settlement mechanism;
- In terms of protecting human rights, the chapters on the protection of intellectual property pose an immediate threat to the availability of affordable generic medicines. The chapters fail to regulate commercial seed systems from the premise of the overarching right to food and decent livelihoods for small producers and vulnerable farming communities.
- The agreements fail to adequately regulate capital flows to avoid exposure to financial instability.
- The agreements fail to impose direct, binding and enforceable obligations on foreign investorsto observe relevant recognised international standards on human and social rights or climate and other environmental policies.
- The agreements do not foresee in periodic assessments of the human rights, environmental and climate impacts of the agreement. Crucially, they lack a ‘review clause’ to review (parts of) the agreement after it has been ratified and implemented, based on regular impact studies on sustainable development and human rights.
- The precautionary principle is mentioned in Article 13.11 of the non-binding chapter on sustainable development but not in the chapter dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary rules. The EU-Vietnam agreement does not guarantee a full and complete application of the precautionary principle.
The investment part of these agreements is considered to be a mixed competence and will have to go through the relevant national ratification procedures in all Member States.
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