European Union (EU) trade and investment policies is an important factor in driving deforestation, notably through its demand for commodities, including for livestock and dairy production.
To ensure coherence between EU trade policy and EU commitments to halt deforestation, mitigate climate change and respect human rights, the EU must ensure that the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) it is currently negotiating with highly forested countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines) - include provisions and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that increased trade does not increase deforestation and human rights violations.
Forests and community tenure rights should be identified as priority areas during trade negotiations with highly forested countries. Trade and investment agreements should include binding and enforceable provisions to control deforestation and respect community tenure rights.
Fern also calls for transparent and inclusive trade negotiations on issues affecting forests and land rights, stronger civil society monitoring and dispute resolution systems, since greater participation of civil society in the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements helps make them more sustainable.
Our concrete proposals for putting these recommendations into action are:
- Develop a roadmap during negotiations to support forest governance reform
Each FTA should contain a roadmap to protect forests, mitigate climate change and respect community tenure rights. This helps provide clarity over the actions, such as legislative reforms, to be taken by Parties before the agreement comes into force. The start of the agreement could be made conditional on complying with these commitments. This is referred to as pre-ratification conditionality, requiring institutional or legislative changes before an agreement can come into force.
- Develop FTA provisions to control deforestation
FTAs should include binding and enforceable provisions to control deforestation, respect customary tenure rights, implement the Paris Agreement and put rules in place that require companies to act in line with international obligations. Provisions could be backed up by the roadmap described above and developed with all stakeholders including local civil society, defining and outlining activities for both parties to meet the provisions, including agreed milestones.
- Strengthen monitoring mechanisms and enforcement
Existing civil society monitoring mechanisms should be clarified, strengthened and properly resourced and a monitoring tool should be developed and could include indicators or scorecards to track progress and ensure accountability from the Parties in terms of implementing provisions. Inspections should take place to verify compliance with the provisions. Inspiration may be drawn from the provisions included in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) chapters of trade agreements which allow for such verification to take place.
For more information, read Fern’s discussion paper ‘Forests and forest peoples in EU Free Trade Agreements’.