Human rights conditionality in the EU GSP scheme: "a focus on those in need or a need to refocus?"

Velluti, Samantha (2016) Human rights conditionality in the EU GSP scheme: "a focus on those in need or a need to refocus?". In: The human face of the European Union: are EU law and policy humane enough? Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 342-366. ISBN 9781107077225

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Since the mid-1990s the European Union (EU) has been at the forefront of attempts to strengthen and promote the social dimension of globalisation through trade, focusing chiefly on the promotion of labour standards internationally through increased cooperation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and through its external trade policies.
In a recent Communication on trade, growth and development the European Commission (2012) mentioned the need for change in order to foster growth, to develop synergies between trade and development policies and the importance of projecting the EU’s values and interests in the world, highlighting how the respect for human rights represents one of its core values in its external action. This is seen as part of the EU 2020 Strategy. In addition, the reform of the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) to be implemented in 2014 is said to help the poorest developing countries. However, this stated different and more humane approach to trade begs an apparently very simple question: who are the beneficiaries of such change?
In the current multi-polar system in which the EU no longer constitutes the centre stage of global policy making and in the context of the EU’s “deep trade agenda”, namely the push for further trade liberalisation focusing on the removal of domestic non-tariff regulatory measures, as well as the escalation of the euro-zone crisis which is also unravelling, among other problems, the lack of solidarity among EU Member States and the inability to fight protectionism in situ, the legitimacy and credibility of EU action is called into question.
The chapter explores the role the EU has committed itself to in relation to the promotion of social rights and international labour standards in its Common Commercial Policy (CCP). In particular, it seeks to critically examine who the real beneficiaries of the social conditionality imposed by the Commission in the EU’s external trade policy are. Indeed, the injection of a human rights agenda in the EU’s external trade policy raises many complex questions in relation to competence, coherence, effectiveness and legitimacy of the EU as a global actor.
Furthermore, the conception of labour rights as human rights remains a moot and controversial question. This explains why at present there is little understanding of how to ensure the protection and promotion of social rights effectively through the EU’s external trade policy. In turn, this makes it all the more difficult to fully grasp what the role of the EU can be in developing a linkage between trade and the social, thus ensuring a system of trade promoting more equitable global trade and sustainability, which is founded on discourses of social responsibility and justice in addition to free trade and open market economies.
This analysis is particularly prominent and made necessary by fundamental changes introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon (TL) specifically in relation to the CCP as well as the EU’s envisaged accession to the ECHR and the conferral of the same legal value of the Treaties to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which combined with other key institutional changes, will impact on the EU internal policies as well as the EU’s external action.
In the light of these constitutional, institutional and substantive changes, the chapter explores whether it is possible to develop a legitimate and effective CCP in a globalised economy and draw some tentative conclusions as to what the above role of the EU in its external trade relations may tell us more generally about the EU’s humaneness.

Keywords:Common commercial policy, GSP scheme, ILO, European Union, International labour standards
Subjects:M Law > M120 European Union Law
Divisions:College of Social Science > Lincoln Law School
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ID Code:14184
Deposited On:25 Sep 2014 07:56

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