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Alliance Sud | 24 janvier 2020
Blueprint for a human rights impact assessment of the planned comprehensive free trade agreement between EFTA and Mercosur
by Caroline Dommen
A study commissioned by Alliance Sud
This study sets out the rationale and the methodology for carrying out human rights impact assessments of Switzerland’s trade agreements. Recalling the objectives of Switzerland’s trade policy as well as the country’s human rights obligations, it shows that human rights-based impact assessments of trade agreements are feasible and constitute valuable tools for policy-making, in addition to being a legal obligation.
To demonstrate why and how a human rights impact assessment (HRIA) should be carried out, this study takes as a case study the Comprehensive free trade agreement between the Member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and the Member States of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay).
Following HRIA best practice, Alliance Sud undertook stakeholder consultations in Switzerland and in Mercosur countries, on the basis of which it identified areas of concern for further study. Part 2 of this study presents the agreement’s likely content relating to (1) intellectual property provisions affecting the right to health, (2) women’s rights, and (3) agriculture trade provisions affecting Indigenous rights.
Based on prior experience, it describes human rights-related concerns in each of these areas for the Mercosur countries, and how these should be assessed from a human rights perspective. It presents the relevant methodology for ex ante human rights impact assessment of the EFTA-Mercosur trade agreement and suggests how indicators should be selected for more detailed ex ante assessment as well as ongoing assessment after the agreement is in force.
The present study also offers context and discussion of what a human rights impact assessment can – and cannot – do, so as to clarify the role and the value of the methodological approach proposed. It demonstrates that, notwithstanding the complexity of the issues at hand, methodologies exist for meaningful assessment of human rights impacts of trade agreements.
It recommends that the Swiss government:
- should carry out systematic ex ante and ex post HRIAs of its trade agreements.
- should review existing trade agreements (FTAs) with developing countries with regard to their human rights impacts and use the results of such reviews to identify particular risk areas and further develop the methodology for ex ante analyses of future FTAs.
- should include a broad range of views and experience when formulating positions and
- options in trade policy negotiations. An independent body should be entrusted with carrying out and implementing a HRIA and this independent body should necessarily include the views of local groups that do not usually participate in trade negotiations, such as Indigenous communities, small-scale farmers, local governments, women’s groups or health ministry officials. Such consultations should engage with specific trade-related topics, and should involve in-depth discussions based on hard data or the best available relevant data.
- should include a broad range of views and experience in trade negotiations by including in its negotiating delegations include a minimum number of women and officials from other, non-trade, ministries.
- should make negotiating positions and the basis for these publically available
- should encourage other EFTA States, as well as the EFTA Secretariat to make
- negotiating positions and the basis for these publically available
- should endeavor to ensure that consultations are held with the local population of the partner countries in the course of the FTA negotiations, with both the government of the partner country and the Swiss government participating in these consultations.
- should encourage other EFTA States, as well as the EFTA Secretariat to make negotiating positions and the basis for these publically available
- should spearhead initiatives, at the national and international level, to ensure that economic modelling on which trade negotiating scenarios and positions are developed include more sophisticated consideration of differential impacts on different groups.
- should spearhead initiatives, at the national and international level, to ensure that economic modelling integrate considerations relating to economic losses involved in not harnessing women in the workforce or depleting natural resources.
It recommends that Parliament:
- before its deliberations on the ratification of the agreement with Mercosur, should demand that the Federal Council carry out a HRIA. Without such an assessment, Parliament will lack sufficient basis for decision-making. Indeed, to be able to make a fully informed decision, Parliament needs a systematic analysis of the implications of the planned agreement in terms of human rights and of its consequences for global sustainable development.