logo logo

Statement: The EU-New Zealand Agreement should not be ratified

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Seattle to Brussels Network | 20 October 2023

Statement: The EU-New Zealand Agreement should not be ratified

Fifty Civil society organizations call on the European Parliament not to ratify the trade agreement with New Zealand.

The European Parliament must decide in the coming months whether to approve the free trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand. The European Commission describes the treaty as the “most progressive” trade agreement it has negotiated to date. Some MEPs portray it as a new “gold standard” for all future trade agreements. Yet, this agreement falls short of its promises. It is neither a new gold standard, nor progressive.

The agreed liberalizations threaten to increase harmful trade flows that risk contributing to rising greenhouse gas emissions, shrinking biodiversity, precarious employment and further social inequality.. The few changes on the enforceability of some sustainability commitments do not alter the fundamental structures of the current EU trading system. This system remains anchored in a production and consumption model that has driven the climate crisis, environmental degradation and social inequalities within and between countries. Therefore, we, fifty civil society organizations, call on the European Parliament to reject the EU-New Zealand trade agreement in its current form.

The recently published report of the European Energy Agency indicates that European greenhouse gas emissions must fall twice as fast as in the past decade if we are to meet the EU reduction target of 55% by 2030. That is why we can no longer afford “business as usual.” The environmental and social challenges also call for fundamental change in trade policy. Piecemeal reforms are not enough.

The EU-New Zealand trade agreement is not up to the challenges of our time because:

1) The agreement would lead to a further increase in greenhouse gas emissions, as indicated by the EU Commission’s sustainability impact assessment, among others. This is primarily because the agreed tariff reductions and import quotas will likely result in the exchange of larger quantities of climate-damaging products. For example, the EU Commission expects EU exports to New Zealand to increase by up to 47%, made up primarily from increases in exports of machinery, cars and chemicals On the New Zealand side, exports of meat and dairy products to the EU would increase. In other words, the main beneficiaries on both sides would be companies that often cause considerable environmental and climate harm.

2) In the sectors benefiting from the trade agreement – agriculture in New Zealand, manufacturing in the EU – precarious working conditions with low wages and poor working conditions persist. In New Zealand, this applies to the meat and dairy industries, among others; in the EU it applies, inter alia, to subcontractors in the manufacturing industry, whether in Southern and Eastern Europe or in third countries. It is therefore one of the particularly serious shortcomings of the agreement that it does not link additional export options to binding improvements in working conditions along the supply chains of exporting companies. It thus also falls far short of the corporate due diligence obligations that are to be enforced under the EU Supply Chain Act.

3) The agreement only provides for selective improvements to the enforceability of the sustainability chapter. For example, only violations of obligations to comply with the core labor standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Paris Climate Agreement can be disciplined with trade sanctions. However, this option does not apply to potential disputes over the majority of sustainability commitments. Thus, treaty commitments on biodiversity, fossil subsidy reform, combating deforestation and overfishing, gender equality, corporate responsibility, and the ILO’s priority conventions and Decent Work Agenda remain non-sanctionable. Consequently, the sanctions option remains far too limited to contain the significant environmental and social risks of the agreed market openings.

4) The European Commission expects that investments by European companies in New Zealand could grow by up to 80% thanks to the agreed liberalizations. Nevertheless, the trade agreement does not provide any specific measures to link the agreed investment liberalization to sustainability criteria. This, however, is a significant shortcoming, as European companies often invest in environmentally harmful industries in New Zealand, such as fossil oil and gas production or emissions-intensive livestock farming.

5) The trade agreement in particular contributes to intensifying the social and ecological risks emanating from export-oriented intensive agriculture. Due to the low production costs of milk and meat in New Zealand – made possible, among other things, by low wages and inadequate environmental regulations – smaller sustainably managed farms in the EU will come under stronger predatory competition because of the planned market openings. This is likely to further exacerbate the crisis in European agriculture and jeopardize the implementation of the Farm to Fork strategy, which aims to make the EU food system more sustainable.

6) The FTA lacks proper provisions on the rights of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. The chapter on intellectual property, e.g., does not include any tangible protections of their genetic resources, traditional knowledge or cultural expressions. Not a single Māori item features on the list of geographical indications, leaving names for local products such as Mānuka honey unprotected.

For these reasons, we demand: The EU-New Zealand agreement must not be signed! We need a trade policy that meets the challenges of the 21st century and is in line with the EU’s sustainability goals. The trade agreement does not meet this requirement. The selective improvements in the sustainability chapter do nothing to change the social and environmental risks posed by the proposed trade liberalizations. At its core, the agreement continues to aim for an undifferentiated increase in bilateral trade and investment flows, irrespective of the working and production conditions and the environmental damage caused by the traded goods. As long as the export industry makes its profits at the expense of people and nature, international trade will remain an obstacle on the road to a fair and sustainable economy.

To still endorse the call, see:

All endorsements:

Friends of the Earth Europe, Europe
The European Trade Justice Coalition, Europe
European Coordination Via Campesina, Europe
Ekō, Europe
Sindicato Ferroviario, Spain
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
CGT – Confederación General del Trabajo, Spain
It’s Our Future, New Zealand
Powershift, Germany
Berlin Wassertisch, Germany
Deutscher Freidenkerverband DFV, Germany
NaturFreunde Deutschlands, Germany
Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL), Germany
Regenwaldgruppe Greenpeace Mannheim-Heidellberg, Germany
Heidelberger Bündnis für gerechten Welthandel, Germany
Collectif national Stop CETA/Mercosur, France
Attac France, France
Aitec, France
CGT France, France
Veblen Institute, France
Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU), France
CADTM France, France
Confédération Paysanne, France
reseau Roosevelt-Du travail pour tous, France
Les Amis du Monde Diplomatique, France
Notre Affaire à Tous, France
Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme, France
Fédération Artisans du Monde, France
ZEA, France
ActionAid France, France
Alofa Tuvalu, France
Fondation Copernic, France
Les Amis de la Terre, France
Terre & Humanisme, France
Bloom, France
Comité Pauvreté et Politique, France
Générations Futures, France
France nature Environnement, France
Comhlámh Trade Justice Group, Ireland
NatureFriends Greece, Greece
SOMO, Netherlands
Transnational Institute (TNI), Netherlands
Handel Anders!, Netherlands
Voedsel Anders NL, Netherlands
Landbouwcoalitie voor Rechtvaardige Handel, Netherlands
Platform Aarde Boer Consument, Netherlands
Attac Austria, Austria
AK Europa, Austria
Anders Handeln, Austria
TROCA – Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo, Portugal

 source: Seattle to Brussels Network