14 November 2014
The TTIP should promote mutual supportiveness between trade and labour policy and include a strong role for civil society. The differences between the EU and US approaches to labour provisions in trade agreements should not be an impediment but rather a unique opportunity for ambitious and innovative coverage of provisions on labour rights in the TTIP.
This was the general understanding at the round table on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Commission, employers’ organisations, trade unions, ILO experts and EU and US NGOs, held by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 13 November in Brussels.
The TTIP - an opportunity to build on the EU and US commitment to high levels of labour protection
Participants agreed that labour provisions in the TTIP have to go beyond International Labour Organization (ILO) core labour standards, including commitments to ratify relevant EU conventions. The promotion of social dialogue and the establishment of works councils in multinational enterprises would also be a way to establish a level playing field for labour rights. Corporate social responsibility is one means of preserving the balance between trade and labour rights.
Labour provisions should be binding and enforceable
Participants agreed that labour provisions should not be mere window dressing to the trade agreement: they should make a real difference in protecting workers’ rights in a global context. While agreeing on the binding nature of the provisions, participants disagreed on enforcement mechanisms and on the need to provide for trade sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the TTIP’s labour provisions.
Transparency and inclusiveness
The Commission’s chief negotiator, Ignazio Garcia Bercero reiterated the stance taken by Commissioner Malmström: TTIP negotiations should become more transparent. Civil society participants, however, want to go further: "Transparency should be implicit in negotiations, and including those who are most concerned, namely civil society, is a prerequisite for a successful agreement," said Sandy Boyle. He added that it was imperative to establish a civil society monitoring mechanism, especially with regard to the TTIP’s labour provisions. Participants particularly favoured a joint institutional civil society monitoring mechanism and called for it to be allocated resources sufficient to ensure that it will be fully operational.