EU Trade to consider action to improve the environment and human rights

10 June 2020

EU Trade to consider action to improve the environment and human rights

New human rights and environmental due diligence legislation will be an important part of the EU trade agenda, said Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan in a 19 May 2020 speech at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct.

Rather than delaying the need for action, Commissioner Hogan said that the ongoing COVID crisis only highlights the need for improved supply-chain management and sustainability. He referenced last month’s announcement (FW 255) by EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders of a new law requiring EU companies to identify, prevent and mitigate environmental and human rights risks in their global supply chains.

Commissioner Hogan indicated that this broader due diligence requirement should be accompanied by action to deal with trade in some sectors, expressing “keen interest” in cocoa. The Commissioner spoke at length about prioritising the cocoa trade, building on the recent initiative of the Ivorian and Ghanaian governments to charge a higher Living Income Differential for their cocoa, as well as the call from major chocolate companies for the EU to be engaged.

We welcome and support this interest from DG Trade. Any new work on cocoa must include strong forest protection, involve local civil society and cocoa farmers, and ensure a living income for cocoa farmers.

The comments by Commission Hogan mirror text in the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy and Biodiversity Strategy, released on 20 May. Both refer to the presentation, in 2021, of a legislative proposal and other measures to avoid placing products associated with deforestation or forest degradation on the EU market. The strategies also commit the EU to step up enforcement of sustainability chapters within EU trade agreements, although it is unclear how this would be done.

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