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EU To Include Safeguard Measures in Free Trade Agreements

Laws & Regulations

BRUSSELS, Belgium – It currently is the big obstacle that blocks the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement; labour and human rights in Vietnam. The EU is now putting in place an overall framework for ensuring consistency in the inclusion of safeguard measures in free trade agreements.

EU To Include Safeguard Measures in Free Trade Agreements
European Council is putting in place overall framework for inclusion of safeguard measures in free trade agreements like with Vietnam. – Photo EU

Last week, the Presidency of the European Council reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament representatives on a proposal to streamline the inclusion of safeguard measures in trade agreements so that they will be applied effectively and consistently. The agreement will now be submitted for political endorsement by EU ambassadors. Earlier, Parties in the European Parliament expressed to have lots of concerns about labour and human rights like in the Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam. This was caused as Vietnam’s government had planned wide-ranging reforms ahead of its trade (TPP) deal with America, which would have improved working conditions for industrial workers. But when the United States withdrew from TPP, Vietnam canceled those reforms. The European Parliament’s concerns blocked, after years of negotiations, the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.

‘Ambitious trade agenda’

“The EU is delivering on an ambitious trade agenda: we recently signed free trade agreements with Japan and Singapore. But ambition must be matched by prudence. This regulation will enable us to provide more effective and consistent protection of the EU market from any specific threat against our industry,” said Margarete Schramböck, Austrian Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs and member of the Council.

Bilateral safeguard measures linked to trade agreements (allowing for the temporary withdrawal of tariff preferences) are intended to protect a particular domestic industry from an increase in imports of any product which is causing, or which risks causing, serious injury to that industry.

EU-Japan, EU-Singapore and EU-Vietnam free trade agreements

The EU regularly concludes trade agreements with third countries, most of which include bilateral safeguard clauses or other mechanisms for the temporary withdrawal of tariff preferences or preferential treatment. Up to now, the bilateral safeguard mechanism has been proposed separately in conjunction with each trade agreement.

At this stage, the regulation covers the implementation of the EU-Japan, EU-Singapore and EU-Vietnam free trade agreements.  Further trade agreements might be added to the scope of the regulation by means of delegated acts.

Next steps

The agreement will be submitted to EU ambassadors for endorsement on behalf of the Council, following technical finalisation of the text. Parliament and Council will then be called on to adopt the proposed regulation at first reading.

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